1987 – Oscar Arias, Central American peacemaker

When Oscar Arias Sanchez was just seven years old, Costa Rica made the historic decision to abolish its standing army. Thus, young Oscar grew up in Central America’s only country that did not rely on military might to ensure its security, a fact that he still credits with the country’s peaceful recent history.

He was elected President of Costa Rica in 1986, and immediately set about working for peace in Central America, bringing the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua together for the start of peace negotiations.

In 1987 he drew up his own peace plan for the region. A peace accord based on his plan, today referred to as the Arias Plan, was approved on August 7, 1987 in Guatemala. He was re-elected to the Presidency of Costa Rica in 2006. A charismatic and eloquent leader, he is known for mingling in the streets without bodyguards, dining in public restaurants and driving his own car.