Oscar Arias Sánchez was born in San José, on September 13, 1940. He completed his primary studies at the República Argentina School in Heredia and his secondary studies at the Saint Francis School, in Moravia. Subsequently, he studied Law at the University of Costa Rica and obtained his Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Essex, England. After returning to his country, he worked as a professor of Political Science at the University of Costa Rica and, since then, has been linked to academic activities at some of the most prestigious universities in Europe and the United States of America.
He belonged to the National Liberation Party (PLN) during his youth and in 1970 he was called to public function by President José Figueres Ferrer, who appointed him as Minister of National Planning and Economic Policy, a position he continued to occupy in the administration of Mr. Daniel Oduber Quiros. He resigned from that position to aspire to a seat in the Legislative Assembly, which resulted in being elected as a deputy in 1978.
A year later, he was appointed Secretary General of the PLN and the party appointed him as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic of Costa Rica for the presidental term of 1986-1990. His electoral triumph was motivated by the promise to fight for peace in Central America, which then was ravaged by bloody political and military conflicts. Guatemala and El Salvador were immersed in civil wars dragged on for a long time, while the fall of the dictatorship of the Somoza family, in Nicaragua, and the subsequent seizure of power by the Sandinista National Liberation Front, created in the region a climate of confrontation that it threatened to reach the Costa Rican borders. To this threat was added the ideological and military interference of the Soviet Union and the United States of America, superpowers faced in the framework of the Cold War.
It is in this context that Dr. Oscar Arias proposes to the five Presidents of the Central American republics the Peace Plan that bears his name and that was signed in Guatemala in August 1987. Said plan was the basis of a lasting peace and a slow but inexorable democratization process in the Central American region.
In recognition of his efforts, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. This award, which was invaluable support for the consolidation of peace processes in the region, also allowed Dr. Arias the creation of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, an institution that has been dedicated to promoting causes such as demilitarization, control of small arms and light weapons, gender equality and democratic governance.
After several years of staying out of national politics, Dr. Arias agrees to nominate himself, once again, for the 2005 presidential campaign. Thanks to his commitment to "put Costa Rica on the road again," he was reelected for the presidential term og 2006-2010, becoming the first head of state awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to be reelected. His second administration revolved around the fight against poverty, the expansion of the educational system and the insertion of Costa Rica in international markets, with the signing of Free Trade Agreements with United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic, China, Singapore, Panama and the European Union, as well as the opening of state monopolies in insurance and telecommunications.
Internationally, Arias promoted the approval of a Treaty on the Transfer of Arms, which is currently in the bosom of the United Nations General Assembly for discussion, the environmental initiative known as Peace with nature and the so-called Consensus of Costa Rica, a mechanism to forgive debts and support, via international financial resources, developing countries that invest more and more in the protection of the environment, health, education and housing for their peoples, and less in weapons and soldiers. Along with these causes, President Arias promoted a visionary foreign policy, establishing diplomatic relations with China, Cuba and with several moderate Arab countries.
Among the many publications of Dr. Arias are the following books: Con velas, timón y brújula (With Candles, A Wheel and a Compass), Hagamos juntos el camino (Togteher Let's Build a Road), Horizontes de paz (Peace Horizons), Frieden Für Zentralamerika (Peace for Central America), Nuevos rumbos para el desarrollo costarricense (New Directions for the Costarican Development), Los caminos para el desarrollo de Costa Rica (The Roads to development of Costa Rica), Democracia, independencia y sociedad latinoamericana (Democracy, Independence and the Latinamerican Society), ¿Quién gobierna en Costa Rica? (Who Governs in Costa Rica?), Grupos de presión en Costa Rica (Pressure Groups in Costa Rica) y Significado del movimiento estudiantil en Costa Rica (The Meaning of the student movement in Costa Rica).
Oscar Arias has received around 70 honorary doctorates from different universities in the United States of America, such as Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Washington University and Brandeis, as well as from other prestigious educational institutions, such as the University of Salamanca in Spain, Bahcesehir en Turkey, Yonsei in Japan, Kyung Hu in South Korea and Essex in England. He has also received numerous awards, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize, the Philadelphia Medal of Freedom, the Jackson Ralston Prize, the Prince of Asturias Prize, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Prize and the Prize of the Americas. For him, however, there is no more important award than the immense love he has received from his people.