Costa Rican campaigners push for a ban

April 20, 2015

ICAN, as a network of organisations and campaigners, is completely reliant on the hard work and progress achieved by partner organisations at the national and international level.

In Costa Rica, where the nuclear weapons issue has not traditionally been at the forefront of public discourse, campaigners have sought to raise the profile of the humanitarian initiative, both in terms of the new information about the risks of accidental or intentional detonations and the catastrophic consequences that would ensue, as well as the momentum this movement has generated for the proposal to ban nuclear weapons under a new legal instrument. Carlos Umaña of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War Costa Rica (IPPNW-Costa Rica), noted that a primary campaigning goal last year was to convey the urgency of the issue and raise the profile of the humanitarian initiative and the need for a treaty banning nuclear weapons into the public consciousness.

“There are a lot of anti-violence initiatives focused on small arms control and other issues that affect local populations directly,” said Umaña. “Our goal was to bring nuclear weapons into that discussion, and raise awareness about  a serious threat with dramatic consequences that must be urgently addressed.”

IPPNW Costa Rica partnered with the Arias Peace Foundation on its conference on small arms and light weapons, expanding the scope to include discussion on nuclear weapons. The conference attracted the participation of many regional campaigners and members of the Costa Rican government. There were also  several roundtables to establish and strengthen connections between campaigners in Central America, with the aim of creating support networks for their advocacy work. These networks have proved to be extremely valuable to team up and coordinate strategies among campaigners from different countries.

Given the strong partnerships between the government and the Costa Rican civil society, campaigners have a significant opportunity to work with the government to develop a comprehensive strategy for moving forward towards a ban. Priority must be given to encourage the government to use its current position as a leader on this issue and bring the discussion to international forums, including the NPT Review Conference taking place later this month.

Costa Rican campaigners see the current momentum in nuclear disarmament as a positive and forward-looking development. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) have strongly embraced and supported the Pledge to fill the legal gap, and many hope this strong leadership of Latin American states will continue.

“Our focus right now is to continue generating momentum, and to harness encouragement and support for the state that will come forward and host negotiations as the next step”, said Umaña.

Daniel Högsta, ICAN Network Coordinator, notes that Costa Rica is indeed an important international player in nuclear disarmament. “Due in no small part to the continued advocacy of IPPNW-CR, Costa Rica has been one of the most active States in supporting the humanitarian initiative since its outset”, said Hösta. “Over the last year, Costa Rica has in the last year emerged as one of the clearest voices in articulating why a treaty banning nuclear weapons, even without the support of nuclear armed states, is urgently needed and when and how the negotiations of such an instrument should take place.”

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