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Unarmed Costa Rica urges global military cuts

Arias urged the Security Council to apply the Costa Rica Consensus, which forgives debt and provides aid for developing countries that spend more on human resources than the military.
by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) Nov 19, 2008
Oscar Arias Sanchez, president of the unarmed state of Costa Rica, called on Wednesday for a global reduction of military spending as a matter of international security.

The Security Council later adopted a non-binding resolution inviting other countries to follow this path.

"The perverse logic that leads a poor nation to spend excessive sums on its armies, and not on its people, is exactly the antithesis of human security, and a serious threat to international security," said Arias in an address before the UN Security Council, over which Costa Rica presides this month.

Although Costa Rica has no military, "it is not a naive nation," stressed Arias, a 1987 Novel Peace Prize laureate.

"We have not come here for the abolition of all armies. We have not even come to urge the drastic reduction of world military spending, which has reached 3.3 billion dollars a day."

He proposed instead that "a gradual reduction is not only possible, but also imperative, particularly for developing nations."

The Costa Rican president decried the limited application of Article 26 of the UN Charter, which advocates international arms control as a means to avoid diverting human and economic resources.

"Article 26 has been, until now, a dead letter in the vast cemetery of intentions for world peace," he argued, promoting stronger multilateralism instead.

"As long as nations do not feel protected by strong regional organizations with real powers to act, they will continue to arm themselves at the expense of their people's development -- particularly in the poorest countries -- and at the expense of international security."

Arias urged the Security Council to apply the Costa Rica Consensus, which forgives debt and provides aid for developing countries that spend more on human resources than the military.

He also pressed the international body to support the Arms Trade Treaty, which would control international arms sales to prevent the illicit use of weapons.

"The destructive power of the 640 million small arms and light weapons that exist in the world, 74 percent in the hands of civilians, has proven to be more lethal than nuclear weapons, and is one of the primary threats to national and international security," he said.

The Security Council's non-binding text expressed concern over "increasing global military expenditure."

The statement stressed "the importance of appropriate levels of military expenditure in order to achieve undiminished security for all at the lowest appropriate level of armaments" and called on countries to "devote as many resources as possible to economic and social development."

Speaking to reporters after the statement was unanimously adopted, Jorge Urbina, UN permanent representative for Costa Rica, said he was satisfied with the outcome.

"We are happy that the Council, after almost 60 years, has retaken Article 26," he said.

"The Council recognizes that regulation of armaments and disarmament are important instruments for the promotion of peace and international security," he said.

"The Council urges countries to invest in development, this is not usual language of the Council."

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