Costa Rica President Urges Wealthy Nations to Forgive Debt Based on Peaceful Spending

Costa Rican President Oscar Arias announced a proposal on Monday for wealthy nations to forgive part of the debt of poor countries if they agree to channel the money saved into education and health care instead of weaponry.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner said the idea, dubbed "the Costa Rica Consensus," got a good reception during his recent visits to Switzerland, Germany and Italy. Arias said he hopes to invite several countries to a conference next year to formally launch the proposal.

"The most important thing for me was to stress that the G-8 nations forgive debt, not just based on the poverty level of the debtor countries, but on what they spend on," Arias said, referring to the group of the world's wealthiest nations.

Arias, who won the Nobel Prize as president in 1987 for his efforts as a mediator in the civil wars that wracked Central America in the 1980s, has long campaigned against worldwide arms trafficking.

While heavily indebted countries have long called for debt forgiveness — which has been granted in some cases — creditor nations have also expressed concerns that the funds forgiven be put to good use, and not frittered away in corruption, conflict or political patronage.

"The Costa Rica Consensus has an element of common sense that nobody can deny," Arias said. "I think it will be well received."

"The real job is to work to convince the multilateral lending agencies, above all the World Bank, to change their mind-set a bit."