By Viviana González Vargas – International Relations Student

Everyone has the right to a healthy and ecologically balanced environment. This is part from article 50 of our political constitution. In 2020, they added that everyone had the right to drinking-water. Just with these parts of the article, it’s easy to make a connection to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are 17 global goals adopted by 193 countries to end poverty and guarantee well-being for everyone. There’s a connection because many SDGs are related to health and ecological aspects, such as Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-Being), Goal 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) and Goal 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production). Of course, this is an important topic because these goals want to combat the many environmental, political and economic issues that the world has been facing for years on an international level. However, was the reform on this article enough to say that we’re on track to meet the SDGs? Well, to me, it obviously isn’t.
Yes, law making is extremely helpful when it comes to sustainability. Also, it’s a really good sign that in 2020, a reform was made to this article to add the right to drinking water for everyone. So, obviously, our country has shown commitment to this type of rights since the creation of its constitution and they altered it, which shows even more interest in sustainability. However, reforming and respecting this article isn’t enough to say that we have full commitment to apply them efficiently. My reasoning has to do with the fact according to Milligan and Mehra (2018), vital actions that legislators in each country need to do in order to achieve SDGs include developing evidence-based strategies to ensure efficient national implementation, align national legislation and policies to these sustainable commitments, make sure that the national budget has enough resources to secure well-being and support inclusive platforms for vulnerable groups.
So, yes, Costa Rica reformed an article and that shows compromise, like they mentioned. However, that commitment hasn’t been complete. As Rojas, Montero & Campos (2020) mention, Costa Rica has shown advancement in some SDGs, but it has lagged and even omitted details in their reports about their advancement in others. Besides, they mention that “since joining the 2030 Agenda, there haven’t been any corrective actions or mandatory budgets to meet the criteria and parameters required by this international commitment” (Rojas, Montero & Campos, 2020). Also, the UNICEF considers that the most important steps towards actually achieving the SDGs are awareness and action in society and accountability for high officials and Costa Rica needs to work on those aspects as well. To me, all of this is proof that changing article 50 was important, but, in order to achieve sustainability, we need more.
Many may say that just the existence of an article that contemplates this right is more than what other countries have, and this is actually true. But, in order to achieve the SDGs, an article in the constitution isn’t enough. We need to have a whole change in our economic, social and cultural system. Also, I don’t mean that this isn’t a good start, because it is. But we’re on a time limit because we’re not sure on how long our global system will continue to function properly, so conformism isn’t the answer.
As a conclusion, I think that I need to reiterate the original point. SDGs are extremely important because sustainability ensures a favorable future for all of us, and Costa Rica has demonstrated interest in improving its citizens’ lives. However, one mandate isn’t enough to ensure that we’ll accomplish them. We need more policies and commitment from the high officials of our country, but, more importantly, all of us need to embrace change. In the end, the government can start the change, but it is the citizens' job to apply those changes in their lives to ensure that we will have a healthy and balanced future.

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  • Milligan, B. & Mehra, M. (2018). Environmental law-making for sustainable development. A guide for legislators.
  • Rojas, J., Montero, E. & Campos, F. (2020). El desempeño de los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible, COVID-19 y la Costa Rica Bicentenaria.