What a Small Central American Country Can Teach the World about Peace Building
A few months ago, Professor Sabino Morera found himself reflecting on peace with two former presidents of his home country of Costa Rica—one of them also his former professor.
The seminar “Leadership for Peace-Building in Latin America” brought together a diverse group at the University for Peace (UPEACE) in Costa Rica, which was founded by the United Nations to train global peace leaders.
“I was very honored to be there with these people to reflect on peace at a moment when we are seeing conflict escalate in different parts of the world,” said Morera, head of Spanish Studies for the Middlebury Institute who was there to discuss the footprint of Fulbright Scholars abroad.
The distinguished gathering included former President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace laureate who led peace-plan negotiations for Central America in the 1980s, as well as former President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera, who taught Morera when he was studying diplomacy.
Costa Rica has long had an outsized role in advancing world peace, says Morera. In 1948, following a civil war, the country took the bold step of abolishing its military.
“That single act, that humble act of abolishing the army enabled us to turn military spending into social spending,” said Morera, who is grateful he grew up in that culture of peace and experienced how his own family benefited from that social investment.
“We were able to work our way up the social ladder and to learn from each other,” said Morera. “I think that if you take that first bold step at the national level, at the local level you will soon see the dividends and results that will enable you to keep working toward peace not only at the national, but also the regional and international level.”
In 1987, Morera was awarded the Institute’s Fulbright Scholarship, which brought him to Monterey for what he describes as “two years of challenges and opportunities.” He leveraged his degree working for the Costa Rica Embassy in Washington, where he served as minister counselor for cultural affairs and education, then in Costa Rica, where he worked as a professor of English and translation studies at the University of Costa Rica and was a freelance translator and interpreter.
“William Fulbright thought that the best way to promote cultural understanding and peaceful coexistence was through educational exchange,” said Morera, who has lived that ideal firsthand.
Morera has been teaching Spanish language and Latin American politics and policy at the Institute since 2010. The Institute has welcomed Fulbright Scholars from around the world for decades.
This January, he is leading an experiential learning course called Partnerships for Peace in Costa Rica—which is centered on peace and security, sustainability, and intercultural exchange—along with Professor Marie Butcher. The attendees include students from across different graduate programs of the Institute.