"The road to peace can only be traveled by those who have faith in the greatness of humanity.”
~ Oscar Arias
Arias Sanchez was born in Costa Rica in 1941. When he was a child, Costa Rica became the first country to disband its standing army. This allowed Costa Rica to invest in education, healthcare and the environment. Arias Sanchez studied law and economics in Costa Rica, the United States, and Great Britain, eventually receiving a doctorate in economics. He joined the social democratic party and became a member of the government in the 1970s. Arias Sanchez was elected President in 1986 amid a civil war in neighboring Nicaragua.
As president, he took measures to deal with Costa Rica’s heavy foreign debt and other economic problems, but his main interest was in trying to restore peace and political stability to the war-torn countries of Central America. In February 1987, he proposed a regional peace plan for the Central American countries, called the Arias Plan, that set a date for cease-fires between government and rebel forces, ensured amnesty for political prisoners, and called for free and democratic elections in those countries. Although Arias and the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua signed this plan, it was never fully implemented, partly because of opposition from the United States. However, it laid the foundation for the peace process in Central America.
In October 1987, Arias was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts to achieve the beginnings of peace in the region. With the Nobel Prize money, he formed the Arias Foundation for Peace & Human Progress to promote peace, justice, and equality in Central America. He was re-elected as President of Costa Rica from 2006-2010, after the country amended its constitution to allow him to run again. Arias Sanchez continues to work for peace in Central America, keeping the vision of the Arias Plan alive. Oscar Arias has been a member of PeaceJam since 1996.