President Oscar Arias presided over a debate on military spending this week in the United Nations Security Council, where Costa Rica now holds a rotating presidency.
In his opening remarks, Arias lobbied for the Costa Rica Consensus, the idea that international lending institutions should reward countries that decrease arms spending and increase investment in education, health care, housing and the environment.
He also lobbied for the Arms Trade Treaty, a proposal now under discussion in the U.N. General Assembly that would prohibit arms sales to known human rights violators.
“I haven’t come here to call for the abolition of all armies,” he said. “Nor have I come to call for a drastic reduction in worldwide military spending, which now reaches $3.3 billion a day. But a gradual reduction is not only possible, it’s imperative.”
Article 26 of the U.N. Charter allows the Security Council to regulate the use and sale of arms, but much regulation is unpopular with the veto-wielding permanent members.
“Talking about arms control with England, France, China, Russia and the United States, and reaching an agreement, is a very difficult task,” said Jorge Urbina, Costa Rica’s representative to the United Nations. “Each one has interests.”
All 15 Security Council representatives and 23 members of the General Assembly spoke during the debate Wednesday about their countries’ efforts to reduce arms trafficking.
The Security Council later released a vague statement affirming “the necessity to strengthen peace and security through … disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.”
Speaking at the debate, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. representative to the U.N., lobbied for the Proliferation Security Initiative, a U.S.-led effort that seeks to coordinate and develop procedures for intercepting smugglers of unconventional weapons.