Costa Rica is often called the Switzerland of Central America in reference to its peaceful history and relationships with its neighboring nations. It’s a word that’s used a lot in publicity for the country and is a factor which persuades many foreigners to visit and even move to Costa Rica.
The Institute for Economics and Peace carefully defines peacefulness and lists countries in its Global Peace Index accordingly. Costa Rica earned a very respectable 26th place out of 149 countries in the world in 2010; showing a gradual improvement from its position of 31st in 2007, 34th in 2008 and 29th in 2009. Obviously the fact that Costa Rica has no army is helpful in defining its status as a peaceful nation, but the Index uses more than twenty ‘drivers’ or defining factors to decide each country’s level of peace. The Institute considers internal peace and external peace, such as perceived crime within the nation, homicide rates, life expectancy, military spending and involvement in wars. It is a combination of factors that supposedly help to form a solid judgment of the peacefulness of a nation and is endorsed by famous peace-makers such as Kofi Annan and the Dali Larma.
Costa Ricans are unsurprised to find themselves in the top twenty percent of peaceful countries, although a few feathers were ruffled by the discovery that Uruguay was the only Latin American country rated more highly (24th) despite having armed forces – the difference lies in their relatively low crime rates.
The Institute states that unfortunately Latin America is the area of the world which has had the greatest decrease in peacefulness in the previous year, due to increased crime levels, internal violence and how the citizens of those countries view the danger from crime in their nations. Fortunately for Costa Rica and those living here, this trend isn’t apparent here!