Costa Rica is a country steeped richly in non-violent philosophy and practice, a tradition ticos proudly carry on today. In 1948, the then-president of Costa Rica, Pepe Figueres, abolished the military, establishing Costa Rica as the first country in the world to constitutionally abolish their military. In 1980, the United Nations selected Costa Rica as the host country for the U.N.-sponsored and supported University for Peace, offering Master’s programs in peace studies. In addition, the current president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, was awarded a Nobel Peace prize in 1986 for his efforts in addressing the conflict that engulfed Central America during the 1980’s.
Costa Rica is home to a wide range of organizations, from larger scope international organizations to grassroots conflict resolution centers. At the international level, two of the organizations based in Costa Rica but working throughout Central America are the Arias Foundation and The Foundation for Peace and Democracy. The Arias Foundation works to build a sustainable foundation for peace throughout the America’s in the areas of public participation, advocacy, research, democratization, and education, among others. The Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM) is another organization dedicated to building a sustainable culture of peace and democracy throughout Central America. Currently, they are working to develop workplace-based mediation centers throughout Central America.
At the local level, Costa Rica enacted the Law on Alternative Dispute Resolution and Promotion of Social Peace, which served as the impetus for the development of Casas de Justicia throughout Costa Rica. There are 18 such Justice Houses which serve as local resources for individuals seeking mediation and additional alternative processes such as conciliation and arbitration for resolving their disputes rather than pursuing formal legal proceedings.
In addition to the community-based Casas de Justicia, Costa Rica is also home to peace-based organizations which take a creative approach to conflict resolution and building understanding. Two such efforts include the Peace Army of Costa Rica and CEPPA (Center for Peace Studies). Both organizations work primarily in the school environment. The Peace Army uses a combination of Non- Violent Communication (NVC) and Heart Math as its foundation for teaching peace. CEPPA has been involved with peace education programs, training over 16,000 professionals and students since 1990 in schools, government, and prisons throughout Central America.