El territorio donde nace cada persona influye en las oportunidades y en los retos que tendrá que afrontar a lo largo de toda su vida. Costa Rica acaba de aprobar una Ley de Desarrollo Regional para reducir las brechas territoriales en el país con el apoyo de la FIIAPP a través del programa de cooperación EUROsociAL+.
Nine years in legislative terms is nothing. But this time it is the time that lasted a process that led to a State Policy on the territory that will probably change the lives of Costa Ricans. This is its history. In 2013, the Costa Rican Ministry of Planning submitted a request to the EUROsociAL program aimed at the elaboration of Regional Development Plans with the objective of reducing the significant asymmetries and territorial gaps existing in Costa Rica. These plans were intended to influence the formulation of the National Development Plan, which was in the making at the time. However, the implementation of the Regional Development Plans not only activated a decisive regionalization process, but also significantly boosted the institutionalization of a Regional and Cohesion Policy in the country, with budgetary allocations and specific actions to address territorial gaps and the challenge of equity.
The territory where you are born should not mark your destiny
Since then, Costa Rica has focused on this policy with a national approach, but with the regions as protagonists to strengthen democratic coexistence, social stability and economic growth. The region, as a subnational space, has simultaneous proximity to the local and national levels, and is the ideal place to generate synergies between the two spheres through the adoption of combined approaches.
In short, there was a firm commitment that the territory where one was born should not determine the destiny of its people. People had greater or lesser opportunities and greater or lesser access to public services depending on the region in which they lived. It was not the same to live in the Central Region, which is the most industrially developed, as in Huetar Norte or Huetar Caribe where the infant mortality rate increased substantially or where job opportunities were comparatively reduced¹.
Costa Rica is a country with a history of citizen participation; however, citizens have complained that their involvement in decision-making is limited. This, in addition to the fact that the population, especially those living in areas far from the center of San José, feels a great distance from public institutions, which makes access to services more difficult and, ultimately, leads to greater disaffection with the public sector².
Accompanying a State policy
EUROsociAL+ has been accompanying this process, giving it continuity throughout two presidential mandates (of different political color) and today celebrates that this policy is materializing as a State policy, where Executive and Legislative go hand in hand to try to improve people’s lives, providing solutions from the bodies closest to the citizens. But perhaps the most important thing is that, at a time when it seems that what separates us weighs more than what unites us, the political representatives of different forces, working together, have supported a bill that will probably mark a turning point in improving the conditions and quality of life of the entire population.
Experiences drawn from European regional policy
Experiences such as the European Regional Policy itself, which has had a very positive impact on territorial cohesion and the development of European regions in all countries, or that of the Spanish Congress and Senate, which together with its Ministry of Territorial Policy³ were part of an exchange with Costa Rican parliamentarians, or the experience of Chile’s SUBDERE, inspired the essence of this Law in Costa Rica.
The approval of the Law marks a new stage not only in regional planning in Costa Rica: it also entails a renewed public governance that is key in the post-COVID recovery and reconstruction phase. The regional development process it promotes must intensify and deepen relations of equality between men and women, generating equal opportunities and rights (Art. 4). The creation of the Regional Development Agencies (AREDES) will guarantee that the decision making of the projects to be financed will come from the citizens themselves. And the institutions will be obliged to have a reliable presence in the regions, ensuring proximity to the people, wherever they live.
By Bárbara Gómez Valcárcel, head of Territorial Development of the EUROsociAL+ program at the FIIAPP.
About the Regional Development Law (10.096)
- (1) MIDEPLAN with information from ENAHO, INEC. (2) MIDEPLAN with information from MEP. Directorate of Management and Quality Evaluation. (3) MIDEPLAN with information from the register of vital statistics, INEC. (4) Foreign Trade Promoter (PROCOMER).
- Latinobarómetro 2020: https://www.latinobarometro.org/latContents.jsp
- At the time Ministry of Territorial Affairs and Public Function.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of the person who write them.