Costa Rica

Stable Democracy

On December 1st, 1949, Costa Rica became the first republic to abolish its army. Since then, the government has been characterized by an alternative democracy. This political climate has permitted the development of the country, which has resulted in more social stability and less crime than other Central and Latin American countries. In 1987 the Costa Rican president, Dr. Oscar Arias Sánchez, received a Nobel Peace Prize due to his participation in the peace negotiations during the armed conflict in Central America in that decade.

Current government system

Costa Rica is governed by a presidential system and a unitary state that divides into three main legislation branches, known as Poderes de la República (Powers or bodies of the Republic): Poder Ejecutivo (Excecutive Power), Poder Legislativo (Legislative Power) y el Poder Judicial (the Judicial Power).


Costa Rica is inside the tropical zone. However, due to its steep topography, Costa Rica has within its wrinkled surface many microclimates and an abundance of biodiversity that is of great importance to the planet. As a matter of fact, 25% of the country’s surface is protected by national parks. Although it only represents 0,03% of the planet’s surface, it hosts 6% of its species, both flora and fauna.

Natural Resources

Almost 25% of Costa Rica’s territory and a large part of its sea area has been declared a conservation area and National Park System since the 1970s. There are also many private organizations and companies dedicated to environmental protection, with help from larger international organizations and educational institutions, mainly universities. Some of the most common wild animals in the country are: pumas, jaguars, deer, monkeys, coyotes, armadillos, a very rare variety of birds amongst which we can find quetzals, yigüirro´s (the countries national bird) and hummingbirds. Furthermore, although not completely protected, 46.8% of the country´s territory is covered in forest and jungle.

International Classifications

The 2010 Environmental Performance Index classifies Costa Rica third place in world ranking for environmental performance and achievement. Amongst Latin American countries, Costa Rica occupies first place according to the Touristic Competitiveness Index; 42nd place in world ranking. The human development index (Life Quality Index) ranks the country sixth in Latin America, where it is also ranked second country according to the Global Competitiveness Index (Chile is first place).

According to Costa Rica´s World Development Bank, the country is one of the most important technological exporters (ranked fourth, after Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore). In 2007, the Costa Rican government announced its plans to become the first carbon neutral country in 2021. According to Fundación Nueva Economía (New Economy Foundation), Costa Rica is the world`s happiest country, ranked first place by the Happy Planet Index (HPI), and happens to be the world´s greenest country, too. The health care system was catalogued as third best in Latin America by the World Health Organization, and globally, it ranks 36th, surpassing countries like the U.S.A. and Cuba.

International Classification Table

This table compares Costa Rica´s position in the Latin American index ranking versus its global index ranking and shows the different dates and categories for which these classifications took place. The dates shown in parentheses along with the index/category correspond to the data collected for the evaluation and as reported by each source, the year of publication appears in the third column.

Index (year) Author / Source Year of publication Countries Global position (1) A.L.
position (2)
Environmental Performance (2010) Yale  University[6] 2010 163 3 1
World Press Freedom(2007) Reporters without borders[47] 2007 169 21 1
Democracy scale (2006) The Economist[48] 2007 167 25 1
Global Peace (2008) The Economist[49] 2008 140 34 3
Quality of Life (2005) The Economist[50] 2007 111 35 3
Prosperity Index (2009) Legatum Institute [51] 2008 104 38 4
Touristic Competitiveness (2009) World Economic Forum[9] 2009 133 42 1
Perception of corruption (2008) International Transparency [52] 2008 180 47 3
Economic Freedom (2008) The Wall Street Journal[53] 2008 162 49 5
Human Development (2007) United Nations(PNUD)[10] 2009 182 54 6
Global Competitiveness (2009) World Economic Forum[54] 2009-10 133 55 2
Income equality (1989-2007)(3) United Nations(PNUD)[55] 2007-2008 126 100 5
Life Satisfaction Index (2006-2007) (4) Interamerican World Development Bank[56] 2008 24 N/A(4) 1

(1) Global position

(2) Latin American position (does not include Puerto Rico)

(3) Due to the fact that the Gini Coefficient used for the classification is used each year, a countries position is only a reference, since, strictly speaking, it isn`t possible to precisely compare countries using data that is inconsistent in with time (date dispersion).

(4) The Life Satisfaction Index was calculated by the Interamerican World Development Bank for the 24 countries that are members:  Latin America and the Caribbean. It was based on the Gallup World Poll 2006-2007 and the World Development Indicators; therefore, it refers to regional indexes.