Imagine, a country with no army, would it be in total chaos? being invaded by other bigger countries within years? or would that country grow otherwise? This might sound far-fetched for most of us, but currently, there are more than 20 countries around the globe who have chosen to dispense their defense/attacking sources into bringing peace and stability to their countries. Instead of vast amounts of money spent on equipping and paying the military, these funds are available to finance worthier projects such as education, nature conservation, health initiatives and old age. Two of these countries are in Latin America: Costa Rica and Panama. In both cases, the decision was nothing to do with flower power or bed-ins, but pragmatic thinking to bring peace and stability to their countries.
In 1948, Costa Rica experienced a short but bloody internal conflict, following disputed elections. After victory, opposition leader Jose Figueres made a declaration: ‘The Regular Army of Costa Rica today gives the key to its military base to the schools… The Government hereby declares the National Army officially abolished.’
Abolishing the army was evolutionary not revolutionary though, says Ivan Molina, a Costa Rican historian at the University of Costa Rica and coeditor of The Costa Rica Reader. ‘Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the Costa Rican army had begun to lose importance. This was primarily due to a redistribution of the national budget for spending on education, health and pensions. And throughout the twentieth century, peace had been a key content of the Costa Rican national identity. The abolition of the army was more the culmination of a long process, rather than a sudden transformation.
40 years later, Panama followed Costa Rica’s lead. As in Costa Rica, the change was added to the constitution; Panama prohibited the existence of a standing military in the country.
Costa Rica, has set itself the ambitious target of becoming the world’s first carbon neutral country by 2021. The millions it saves go towards this. ‘Because Costa Rica has NO army, it has more funds for social programmes, social investment and social capital building,’ says Dr. Victor Valle, Associate Vice Rector of the UN-mandated University For Peace in Costa Rica. ‘But the most important outcome is that in Costa Rica there is a culture more inclined to civilian rule and peaceful conflict settlement. The Panamanian case is more recent but the effects will be similar: more funds for social change and a more civilian-oriented culture.’ Costa Ricans are proud to say that Costa Rica is a country with more teachers than soldiers.
In short, leading a country is not as easy as we think it is. To decide what and where the country is gearing towards, with short and long term goal, how and where to exercise nation's wealth to benefit everyone the most, is the toughest of all. First carbon neutral country, hmm.....never thought of that, carbon neutral country would surely contribute alot to the conservation of our diverse natural resources, apart from making us renown in the eyes of the world, Malaysia should sets its aim on achieving that too!