Oscar Arias Sánchez served as president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and again from 2006 to 2010. He is the recipient of the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize and has been a member of the Inter-American Dialogue since 2010.
Arias studied economics at the University of Costa Rica and earned a PhD in political science from the University of Essex in England. In the 1960s he began working for the social-democratic National Liberation Party (Partido Liberación Nacional; PLN), and was appointed minister of planning in the government of President José Figueres Ferrer in 1972. In 1979, he was elected secretary-general of the PLN and in 1986 he won the general election to become president of Costa Rica.
As president, Arias took measures to cope with Costa Rica’s heavy foreign indebtedness and other economic problems, but his main interest was in trying to restore peace and political stability to the strife-torn Central American region. He took office in the midst of the Contra War, and in February 1987 he proposed a regional peace plan for the Central American countries that would set a date for cease-fires between government and rebel forces, ensure amnesty for political prisoners, and schedule free and democratic elections in those countries. Arias and the leaders of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua signed this plan in August 1987.
In October 1987 Arias was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of his efforts to achieve the beginnings of peace in the region. In 1988, Arias used his Nobel Prize money to establish the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress, which promoted peace and equality throughout the world. Arias also was active in various global nongovernmental organizations that focused their efforts on promoting peace and rooting out corruption.
Arias was recruited to run for the presidency of Costa Rica again in 2006, winning a narrow victory. Arias served again as president until 2010.