What Was the First Country in the World to Abolish Its Army?

Costa Rica voluntarily disarmed itself in 1949 to advance a better distribution of wealth and to prioritize development of social aspects, such as health and education.

By UNESCO Memory of the World

Photograph of the act of abolition of the army made in the Cuartel Bellavista (20th century) by Founding Board of the Second RepublicUNESCO Memory of the World

How Did Costa Rica Dissolve Its Army?

On October 11, 1949, Costa Rica dissolved its army by decision of the Founding Board of the Second Republic at Cuartel Bellavista (Bellavista Barracks) through Decree No. 249. It thereby became the first country in the world to abolish the army.

Constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica of 1949, article 12-1 (20th century) by Founding Board of the Second RepublicUNESCO Memory of the World

How the Abolishment Happened and Why it's Important

Immediately after an armed conflict, The Constitution of the Republic of Costa Rica of 1949 established, in Article 12, that “The Army as permanent institution is outlawed.” Costa Rica became an example at world level of a pacifist and civilian nation resolving conflicts and external threats through instruments provided by International Law.

Decree No. 249, stipulating the transfer of “Bella Vista” quarters. Part 3 (20th century) by Founding Board of the Second RepublicUNESCO Memory of the World

From Military Barracks to a National Museum

Decree No. 249 stipulated the transfer of Bellavista to the University of Costa Rica, as a donation to serve as a National Museum and to give a purely civil appearance to the political structure of the State that the army had suppressed as permanent institution.

Former building of the Central American Court of Justice, known as “Casa Amarilla” (20th century) by Founding Board of the Second RepublicUNESCO Memory of the World

Living in an Unarmed Democracy

Costa Rica proved that it was possible to live in an unarmed democracy. 

Members of the Central American Court of Justice (20th century) by Founding Board of the Second RepublicUNESCO Memory of the World

Proving That a Country Can Be Voluntarily Disarmed

The abolition of the army in Costa Rica proved that a State can be voluntarily disarmed, achieving a better distribution of richness, prioritizing development of social aspects such as health and education.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
UNESCO Memory of the World
UNESCO's Memory of the World Programme is an international initiative launched to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity against collective amnesia, neglect, the ravages of time and climatic conditions, and willful and deliberate destruction.
View theme
Google apps