By Carolina Bell Meoño – International Relations Student
International cooperation has many challenges, ranging from population growth and limited resources such as water, energy and food to climate change, and conflict and security. And as of today, a sentiment of unity has been more visible globally as every single nation was put on hold one way or another by the pandemic. In Costa Rica specifically, the pandemic has surfaced a continued sense of hospitality and camaraderie, although with a wide-range of perspectives. Externally, however, Costa Rica’s Foreign Policy continues to push towards values that the country has attempted to hold high even before the pandemic started, and those values do align with what seem to be key to analyze post-pandemic international challenges.
Desperate times call for different measures
As we hit the one-year mark of the pandemic, which officially closed many borders, businesses, and home doors, we understand that the global challenges we had known also took a turn. We can no longer analyze the impact of an international cooperation challenge such as climate change without discussing said challenge through a new lens, that of COVID-19 and all the new trials the pandemic alone brought to the table. It is through that same lens that Costa Rica’s Foreign Policy of unity, international law, communication, cooperation, and peace comes into play, as those same nouns are used in the COVID-19 lens to understand the pandemic, and the additional layers of complexity that it brings to other known global challenges.
In discussing the climate crisis specifically, Costa Rica had firmly lead conversations around the Paris Agreement through the capable hands of Christiana Figueres by advocating for global accountability and responsibility. Now, with the pandemic still lurking around, it would be impossible to continue conversations as part of the Paris Agreement without considering the COVID-19 effects. However, by using the elements found in Costa Rica Foreign Policy, such as strong environmental policies, trust in international law, human rights, and its Green Trademark, the country can present the climate crisis challenge as an “umbrella” that covers a lot more than was previously known. Costa Rica can integrate important aspects of the pandemic that overlap with the climate conversations to push for an even stronger commitment to unity, some of those aspects being trust of science, research and development, access to health, economic support, efficiency of governments, educational reforms, etc.
In that same line of unity and transparency was that last year the Costa Rican government put forth important proposals that would be required for a successful global comeback from the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those proposals was sent to the World Health Organization and aimed to facilitate access to technologies to combat COVID-19, by creating a repository of information on diagnostic tests, devices, medication or vaccines, with free access or licensing on reasonable and affordable terms, for all member countries of the Organization. It further urged the WHO to develop a memorandum of understanding to share technology, and to promote its implementation with financial support from the public and private sectors, as well as from international organizations (Presidencia de la República de Costa Rica, 2020). The second proposal came later in the year to the United Nations General Assembly in the form of a COVID-19 economic relief fund, that aimed to be a solidarity initiative amid the recession caused by the pandemic.
In essence, for Costa Rica’s Foreign Policy, overcoming the challenges regarding international cooperation is more of an evolution of its tactics than a complete change of approach. Historically, Costa Rica has proven that its level-headed, outward-oriented approach garners respect, and the country has grown to be an important member of the international community in the past 25 years. While leading by example is not an easy endeavor, the country will continue to benefit from progressive stances. Going forward, Costa Rica should continue to collaborate, cooperate, and propose solutions for global governance as the international community moves forward with planning for the world after COVID-19.
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Presidencia de la República de Costa Rica. (2021). Costa Rica submits proposal for WHO to facilitate access to technologies to combat COVID-19. https://www.presidencia.go.cr/comunicados/2020/03/costa-rica-submits-proposal-for-who-to-facilitate-access-to-technologies-to-combat-covid-19/.