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History and Background

The founder

Dr. Oscar Arias S?nchez was sworn in as president of Costa Rica for the second time on May 8, 2006. When he assumed power for his first term (1986-1990), the Central American region was immersed in serious and violent political conflict. His visionary goal for a Central America free from war, inequality and repression was formulated into the terms known as the Arias Peace Plan. This initiative came into effect on the 7 of August, 1987, when the presidents of five Central American states signed the Esquipulas II peace accords in Guatemala. The program marked the beginning of a regional process in favour of peace, democracy and development.

The Arias Foundation

Known in the past as the "land of lakes and volcanoes," Central America is without a doubt a very complex and diverse region, as much in terms of culture as in terms of social and environmental factors. In little more than 533 000 square kilometers can be found 7 countries with a total of 35 million inhabitants. These men and women speak more than 30 distinct languages, from Garifuna to English, from Spanish to Kek´chi, from Kuna to Quiché. This winding Isthmus stretches between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, between the jungles of Panama and the Tehuantepec. These are the same lands from which the culture of the ancient Mayan empire once radiated and from which the Zambos-Mosquitos set out on their expeditions to sack the cities of the Spanish Empire.

As diverse as it is, Central America is also a region of stunning contrasts. The poverty of enormous masses of people contrasts with the opulence of very small but privileged minorities which have often exercised their political power in an autocratic manner. Likewise, the region''s geographic position has for many years made it a place of enormous strategic value, transforming it into the scene of economic, political, and military conflicts between the world''s great powers.

Almost all of the republican history of the region has been marked by military and political conflicts between different groups in a battle to impose their interests. The construction of the state has not followed alongside the construction of the nation. As such, the eruption of civil wars here has more often been the norm than the exception. In all of the nations of the region, the army has been at different times a significant element in the balance of power between various conflicting societal sectors, and has often transformed itself into a political force in its own right, wielding enormous power and influence.

The 20th century was no exception; during the second half of the last century, Central America saw itself immersed in different politico-military conflicts that, at any given moment, could have deteriorated into an irremediable general state of aggravation with incalculable consequences, not the least among them being the intervention of extra-regional powers.

Into these circumstances stepped Oscar Arias with his plan for peace. Stemming from the recognition of his efforts at peace with the Nobel Prize, Dr. Arias dedicated the monetary portion of his prize toward continuing efforts at peace and development in Central America. The Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress was founded in 1988, one year after the conferral of the Nobel Prize, with the aim of promoting just and peaceful societies.

Desde su creaci?n, la Fundaci?n Arias ha acompa?ado, mediante sus programas y proyec- tos, a las organizaciones de la sociedad civil y a los gobiernos de la regi?n centroameri- cana, en tres grandes ?reas: la participaci?n y acci?n de la sociedad civil, la igualdad de oportunidades para las mujeres y la equidad de género y la consolidaci?n de una paz firme y duradera en la regi?n centroamericana.

During more than a decade, the Arias Foundation has been an active player through peace processes, democratization, and the search for equality in Central America.

The Foundation''s work consists of the development of actions, initiatives and projects which look to support civil society organizations in the definition of their agendas and to accompany them through their processes of growth and development. Furthermore, the Foundation looks to create meeting spaces between Central American civil society organizations and governments in their search for citizen participation and inclusion in public policy-making. Projects cover many aspects, from the stimulation of the rural women''s movement to the production and diffusion of knowledge related to human security, small arms, disarmament and demilitarization; from the development of a working agenda with civil society and governments in the region in the post-conflict period to the diffusion of information on the human rights of women through educational programs; from the support of the work of organizations concerned with women''s rights to the development of public policy and legislation to ensure the protection of these rights; from the accompaniment of actors in disarmament and demilitarization processes in the Isthmus to the generation and diffusion of knowledge about the state of women''s land and property rights - including active involvement in the promotion of laws and policies with respect to such rights.

The Foundation has worked constantly guided by the goal to unite, through strategic objectives, the ways and means to intervene on different levels. In this way, the Foundation as succeeded in developing working relations of confidence on the regional and international levels, with Civil Society organizations - whether Non Governmental Organizations, rural workers organizations, grass roots movements - as well as with governments and international organizations.


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