Global Good Samaritans: Human Rights as Foreign Policy

By Alison Brysk | Go to book overview

5
The Little Country That Could

Costa Rica

Human rights is our national interest.

—Costa Rican foreign ministry
official, June 2003

Costa Rica provides an interesting case study of good global citizenship, because it lacks the resources or security of a Sweden or Canada. Although Costa Rica’s human rights promotion clearly represents a projection of domestic democracy, this principled peripheral state has pursued human rights at the cost of antagonizing neighboring countries and sometimes contradicting the policies of the U.S. hegemon. The reconstruction of national interest through civil society, international norms, and leadership initiatives has expanded Costa Rica’s marginal structural opportunity to create an international niche as a global Good Samaritan. The power of such socialization is clear when Costa Rican foreign ministry officials from a span of administrations spontaneously aver that human rights is “a part of our national identity” (interviews, June 2003). Yet Costa Rican policy makers spoke of human rights promotion pragmatically as a source of “moral power,” “comparative advantage,” and “long-term security” in the international system. As one put it, “The promotion of peace in Central America, environmental conservation, human rights, and democracy all make the world a better place—and that makes the world better for Costa Rica” (interviews, June 2, 2003).


COSTA RICA: “THE LITTLE COUNTRY THAT COULD”

Our foreign policy is like the bumblebeeit’s really too heavy to fly, but
the bee doesn’t know this, so it just keeps moving its wings and stays in
the air anyway
.

—Ambassador Rodrigo Carreras, former vice minister of
foreign affairs

Costa Rica has an enduring, multifaceted, and meaningful record of international promotion of human rights. Costa Rica’s contribution is

-95-

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