In a year marked by the emergence of COVID-19 and the economic crisis, Costa Rica became the country that advanced the most in the Human Development Index (HDI). The measurement made by the United Nations places Costa Rica in 62nd place out of 189, but it shoots it to 25th place by including conservation variables in the evaluation. The change stood out even more as there were fifty nations that lost the category of “very high human development”.
How did Costa Rica achieve its improvement in the midst of all its shortcomings? Environmental protection had a lot to do with it. The representative of the UN Development Program (UNDP), Vicente Troya, explained that the country has managed to sustain an environmental plan that has outlived the ideas of each government.
“One of the positive parts of Costa Rica is having maintained long-term public policies. As in any other matter, the policies have to be of the State and not of the Government”, he mentioned. “In the 80s we witnessed that it was the country with the most deforestation in Latin America and that in the course of a few decades it had the greatest regional forest coverage,” he added.
The creation of national parks and the involvement of more groups by paying for environmental services are part of the pillars of this model, with a high impact on the new methodology to measure the HDI.
Due to natural hazards, the UN has begun to assess not only the social and economic part but also the environmental impact of both emissions and the effects of resource exploitation. In both cases, local environmental protection allowed a highly positive note.
Community challenges and export model
Although the country benefits from its improvement in Human Development, the audit reveals a following challenge: “to bring that success to all the people”. Despite the success in the global measurement, the UN warns in the same report about the increase in social inequality and its negative repercussions. In the midst of this, however, UNDP identifies opportunities for improvement between the social part and environmental protection.
Returning to the payment for environmental services, experts highlight the need for these revenues to reach the population directly. “They pay well and pay early,” said Troya, using as an example possible sustainable tourism businesses or even waste collection.
The UNDP project officer, Randall Brenes, insisted for his part that institutional management must be improved so that people receive such benefits and setbacks in environmental matters are not promoted.
“It is not possible that some regional offices of social programs, the answers to citizen’s complaints go from a few days to hundreds of days. It is necessary to standardize so that there is a quick support”, he emphasized. Both Troya and Brenes stressed that the country already sees some of its projects as natural but that they are serving as an international model. Uruguay, for example, asked for help to replicate regulations for single-use plastics. Côte d’Ivoire, in Africa, works for its part in the imitation of sustainable value chains such as those promoted by the country