By Chantall Abdulla F. - International Relations student

Costa Rican foreign policy has been handled as a complement of the domestic one, which —in a medium to long term— is going to change into a more autonomous one, due its influence in the international arena, and its recent incorporation as a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Costa Rica has always been recognized by the international community by its deep commitment on human rights, human security and sustainable development, besides being a touristic known place, which sounds very similar to the goals established by the Charter of the United Nations. On the other side, the domestic efforts to promote important international norms have created some soft power (which can also be translated into goodwill) over the years. If one assumes that power is based on dependence and that liking increases the strength of dependence, then it is easy to see how that goodwill can be understood into influence at the international level (Rodriguez-Clare, 2001). “The combination of an accepted internalization of the principles behind those norms and a norm consistent trend in the part of Costa Rica, has propelled the country to role model status among developing nations, and also granted the acceptance by the OECD with its integration into this organization as a member State.

There are several plans and recommendations from the OECD for Costa Rican policy makers on different sectors: public finances, education, infrastructure, innovation and technology, for example. This is the first time an international organization has the autonomy of providing the support on these domestic matters, which can also be a thread for the influence Costa Rica has had in the international arena. Because the foreign image Costa Rica has mainly shown is based on tourism, agrobusiness (bananas, coffee and pineapple, for example) and human rights matters, the core of internal policies hasn’t been revealed persistently among the international community. This core on domestic policies can be a thread since there are several legal loopholes in policies; corruption and interests of elites are also delaying development from an internal point of view and will probably also be shown on the international level. Actually, there is already a recommendation from the OECD regarding the enforcement of closing legal loopholes in its bribery legislation (OCDE, 2015).

Having clear that, Costa Rica, as a member State of the OECD now, in a Post Pandemic World, will have more responsibilities. Foreign policies have to be taking to another level, setting new priorities besides humanitarian matters will open up the possibilities and discussions to a new focus on foreign trade policies perhaps, taking into consideration “services” as a new scope for the Costa Rican economy. Something that has been acknowledged during the current pandemic panorama is that countries with services as main income have been able to manage the situations, clear examples are Ireland and New Zealand, both similar small countries as Costa Rica. Why hasn’t Costa Rica adopted the strategy of exporting services by having the most educated professionals in the region? For example, all the efforts done in the different national laboratories in Costa Rica combating the Covid19 by experts could be a clear example of the capabilities Costa Rica could start to export to the international community.

However, it is still uncertain if there will be in first instance a Post-Pandemic World, but if there would be such a thing, the mentioned actions or scenarios would happen to Costa Rica. If there would not be such a thing as Post-Pandemic World and the current situation is the “new normal”, local governance and international cooperation would change completely, as well, the capability of Costa Rica would be put in doubt, since the existing dependence and reliance of foreign policy as a complement would not be the solution. A change is needed, Costa Rican foreign policy cannot continue to be as it has in the past century, depending on humanitarian matters and being a complement. This is the 21st century; autonomy and interdependence is needed in policies.


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  • OCDE. (2015). Costa Rica: Good Governance, from Process to Results, OECD Public Governance Reviews. Paris: OECD Publishing.
  • Rodriguez-Clare, A. (2001). Costa Rica’s development strategy based on human capital and technology: How it got there, the impact of Intel, and lessons for other countries. Journal of Human Development, 2(2), 311-324.