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Nobel Laureate Óscar Arias at AAAS to Address Issues of Development and Peace
Óscar Arias Sánchez, former president of Costa Rica and 1987 Nobel Peace Laureate, believes that the true security of a state depends less on its military than on the quality of life of its people. On Tuesday, 7 September 2004, at the annual Robert C. Barnard Environmental Lecture at AAAS, he will argue that the triple challenges of peace, development and the environment demand immediate action.
The address is free and open to the public, and will be held at 4:00 p.m. in the auditorium at AAAS, 1200 New York Ave. N.W., in Washington, D.C.
One of the most respected political figures in Latin America, Arias travels the globe spreading a message of peace and applying the lessons garnered from the Central American peace process to topics of current global debate. One of his key recommendations for improving global environmental health is international cooperation to reduce military spending.
"As a statesman and laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize with a focus on democracy and environmental sustainability, Dr. Arias has been a tireless advocate for global peace and security," said Cynthia R. Robinson, director of the Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program at AAAS. "These are essential for the positive exchange of information and for international scientific collaboration to take advantage of the best science to foster human development."
In addition to being a trailblazer in promoting peace in Central America, he is a staunch advocate of environmental protection. He calls modern warfare "an environmental catastrophe" and thinks the effects of the global arms trade on the environment are direct and disastrous. For example, military forces are the largest polluters on earth, responsible in peacetime for more carbon dioxide emissions than any other industry. And, he says, conventional arms and light weaponry impose a tremendous burden on the security and well being of humanity, especially in the developing world, where military spending saps precious resources from development.
Armed conflict inflicts more severe damage. Vietnam lost more than 80 percent of its original tropical forest when 50 million liters of Agent Orange was dumped by the U.S. military. One-third of Vietnam is now considered a wasteland. And in the first Persian Gulf War, oil spills and fires resulted in environmental disasters.
"We are giving people in the Washington science and environmental policy community an opportunity to become better acquainted with a leading figure who has made outstanding contributions to the improvement of the earth's environment," said Albert H. Teich, director of Science and Policy at AAAS.
During his term as president of Costa Rica, Arias relied on the research, advice and political support of scientists as his administration developed policies on eco-agriculture, debt-for-nature swaps, tourism and national park systems. He believes that governments have an obligation to respect scientific opinions and to base policy on sound research.
According to Arias, governments need to actively seek the collaboration of scientists in fields such as biology, earth sciences, health, energy, education and computer science to address complex problems. This challenge depends on marshalling the will of political leaders to act on scientific advice. Heads of state must be willing to propose and implement policies to secure the future of the environment, he says.
"We are especially proud to feature Dr. Arias as a speaker during the orientation of the new AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows," said Robinson. "As a political leader, Dr. Arias understands well the value of science and technology to sound policy and practice."
In March 2004, Arias announced his intention to run again for president of Costa Rica. The Costa Rican congress opted to bring back presidential re-election last year and according to recent polls, the former president is the top hopeful in the 2006 election.
"We have been fortunate to get outstanding, distinguished speakers for this series," said Teich. "Previous lecturers have included Simon Upton, environment minister of New Zealand; Yolanda Kakabadze, former environment minister of Ecuador and president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature; and Valdus Adamkus, president of the Republic of Lithuania and a former official of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Óscar Arias continues that tradition."
Each year, the Robert C. Barnard Environmental Lecture is delivered during the orientation program for the incoming class of AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellows.
The lectureship is endowed by the international law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton to honor Robert Barnard, counsel to the firm, for his contributions to environmental and public health law. Barnard provided extensive service as a member of the selection committee for the AAAS Environmental Fellowship Program, which provides a cadre of post-doctoral to mid-career scientists the chance to work for a year at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
2 September 2004