SWOPE Endowed Lectureship: Dr. Oscar Arias

Oscar AriasWhen Oscar Arias was elected president of Costa Rica in 1986, Central America was a region of great discord. Civil War in Guatemala has claimed one hundred thousand lives; government and rebel forces in Nicaragua and El Salvador trapped civilian populations in their cross-fire; Honduras and Costa Rica faced an increasing threat of involvement in the conflicts. Yet in the face of these threats, Arias intensified his efforts to promote peace. On the very day of his inauguration Dr. Arias began negotiating for peace by bringing together the Presidents of nine Latin American countries. This was the first of several historic meetings, which eventually resulted in what is widely known as the Arias Peace Plan. Drafted in 1987, the plan called for internal dialogue, cease-fire, freedom of speech, and free elections in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. It also called on the superpowers to stop aiding the insurgent forces and instead to promote peace. This initiative culminated in the signing of the Esquipulas II Accords, or the Procedure to Establish a Firm and Lasting Peace in Central America, by all the Central American Presidents on August 7, 1987. In the same year he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1988, Arias used the monetary award from the Nobel Peace Prize to establish the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress. Under the auspices of the Foundation, three programs were established: The Center for Human Progress to promote equal opportunities for women and gender equality; the Center for Organized Participation to strengthen the participation and action of civil society in Central America; and the Center for Peace and Reconciliation to work for demilitarization and conflict resolution in the developing world.

Since the conclusion of his term of office in 1990, he has continued to be a "man of the people" promoting such innovative ideas as human development, global governance, and human security. For him, human security is a matter of human dignity. "It is a child who does not die, a disease that does not spread, and ethnic tension that does not explode, a dissident who is not silenced, a human spirit that is not crushed."