Costa rica s history and experience as an environmental leader in the developing world
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Costa Rica’s history and experience as an environmental leader in the developing world. Jennifer E. Romero March , 2012. What contributes to this image and its practice?. Outline. Introduction Historical review Conclusions. Introduction.

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Costa Rica’s history and experience as an environmental leader in the developing world

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Costa rica s history and experience as an environmental leader in the developing world

Costa Rica’s history and experience as an environmental leader in the developing world

Jennifer E. Romero

March, 2012

What contributes to this image and its practice?



  • Introduction

  • Historical review

  • Conclusions



  • 4% of the total world terrestrial

    biodiversity (Gámez, 1993)

  • More birds species that are

    found in the whole of the US

  • Export economy is dominated

    by sugarcane, coffee and bananas+cattle



Who have been the political catalyst for conservation?

Who started the environmental groups, who created the regulatory agencies, who convinced the politicians, who led the protests?…the foreign influence disappears.

Historical review

Historical review

  • 1846: law for forbidding deforestation near the waterways surrounding Barba Volcano

  • 1881: ban on dynamite fishing

  • 1906: forest conservation Law

  • 1909: Fire Law to regulate agriculture

    Until the decade of 1940, government policies directly encouraged deforestation, requiring settlers to ·”improve” wild areas as a precondition for ownership and providing credit to convert forests to pasture and cropland

Historical review1

Historical review

  • Poswar era:

    • Transnational relations among

      Costa Rican and foreign scientists

    • US concerns about collective

      security in the region during the war

  • 1942: Inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences in Turrrialba (CATIE is its successor)

Historical review2

Historical review

  • 1948: abolition of the military. Fund for social investment

  • 1950: First Natural resources Conservation Week, sponsored by the Ministry of Agriculture and industry

    • Forestry Code: the Secretariat ignored agronomists offers to make draft

  • 1953: Soil and Water Conservation Law (Álvaro Rojas)

Historical review3

Historical review

1960`s, the short term view came to be challenged by individuals trained in ecology and wildlife biology

  • they promoted parks rather than reforestation

    as the appropriate policy response

  • 1968: Colegio de Biólogos

    • Wave of foreign scientists with professional

      training + personal commitments

      1969: The forestry Law (led by Álvaro Rojas)


    Historical review4

    Historical review

    1970s dramatic increase in social activism and environmental policy reform

    Wildlife increasingly under threat

    • 1970: Costa Rica`s first mass environmental protest, directed against the American Aluminum Company (Alcoa)

    • Creation and expansion of the Costa Rican Park System 1970-1986

      • Ugalde and Boza (two natural resources students)

    Historical review5

    Historical review

    • 1971: Costa Rican Audubon Society

      1973 Amigos de la Naturaleza

    • Tropical Science Centre

      • Costa Rican Association for the Conservation of Nature

      • 1974: Daniel Oduber (ranched and congressman) was elected president of the Republic

    Historical review6

    Historical review

    • Daniel Oduber administration:

      • National Parks have the legal backing of the government

      • New Park Service with a mandate, at least on paper, for expansion

      • Park acreage nearly doubled

      • Park service budget tripled; staff increased to 400

    Historical review7

    Historical review

    1980s Balance-of-payment problems

    • The park service staff was reduced by a fifth

    • Environmentalists launched a foreign fundraising campaign: $5.5 million in less than five years

      • extensive coverage in the newsletter of American environmental organizations

      • people in wealthy countries learned of Costa Rican protected areas

      • Ecotourism industry

    Historical review8

    Historical review

    • 1986: Costa Rican Ecology Party

    • Late 1980s: recommendation for a new environmental Ministry

      • Tourism surpassed coffee and bananas

    • Costa Rica emerged as a leader in debt-for-nature swaps:

      Allow environmental organizations to buy private commercial debt at discounted rates and retire the debt in exchange for promises of domestic conservation investments

    Historical review9

    Historical Review

    • National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC)

    • National Biodiversity Institute (INBio): private, nonprofit, public-interest association

    • InBio ran into political trouble from an unanticipated quarter when it announced a “biodiversity prospecting” agreement with the “American” (US) Chemical firm Merk & Co.

    Historical review10

    Historical Review

    1990s, a greenest society: hundreds of environmental organizations were formed; sustainable development as economic model

    • The Humanist Ecology Party

    • NGOs affecting government policy

    • President Figueres

      • Advisory Commission on Biodiversity, the nation`s most important source of biodiversity policy initiatives

      • Explored new ways to finance conservation

    Historical review11

    Historical Review

    • Wildlife + forestry departments + park service placed under the new National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC)

    • Reorganization of the the park system into 10 conservation areas, each with a regional council designed to enhance community involvement

      “President Figueres devoted more attention to the environmental cause than had any head of state in Costa Rican History”

    Historical review12

    Historical Review

    • 1995: EnvironmentalLaw (Ministry of Environment and Energy)

    • 1996: New ForestLaw (defines EnvironmentalServices, providesfunds)

    • 1997: PaymentforEnvironmentalServicesProgram (PPSA): 600.000 ha (1997-2007)

    • 1998: BiodiversityLaw (reinforce SINAC)

    • 26% of theterritoryisprotected (1.3 Mha, 87% state – 13% private)

    Historical review13

    Historical Review



    • Foreign scientific expertise and financial capital have been indispensable for the success of nearly every national park, government agency and regulatory reform

    • Timely application of domestic political resources (process expertise, social networks, agenda, setting resources and political learning)

    • All major policy reforms require a long-term commitment



    • Foreign environmentalists share great interest in conservation outcomes in developing countries, but they lack the political legitimacy and the long-term presence

    • They concentrate on other comparative advantage: technical and financial aid



    • Interpersonal bonds of trust often provide the “glue” that institutions cannot. The social networks that environmental leaders rely on are personal, reciprocal and no contractual

    • Where government institutions are weak, individuals are the primary source of institutional memory

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