Green Recovery in Costa Rica – working on a “3D Economy”

Interview with Barbara Avila, advisor to the Economic Advisory Initiative

In June 2020, the government of Costa Rica requested support through the NDC Partnership´s Economic Advisory Initiative to advance the country’s sustainable recovery after the COVID 19 pandemic. Barbara Avila was one of the seven advisors who undertook this task in Costa Rica from April to October 2021. In this interview, she talks about her work for the initiative. 

What are the priorities of the Costa Rican government in terms of green recovery?

The government's goal is to develop the economy in such a way that we have a digitized, decentralised, and decarbonised economy in the future. We call this the "3D economy" for short. Our task as Economic Advisors was to work on a concept for such an inclusive and decarbonised economic development model.

Could you explain the 3D Economy approach? 

The logic of an inclusive and decarbonised development model, reflected in the National Decarbonisation Plan, proposes to increase green growth by 2050. This green growth is based on a production matrix that reduces the generation of carbon emissions by relying on a decentralised, digitalised, and decarbonised economic system. In this way, it will also be possible to close the structural gaps in the social issues and make progress in reducing poverty, inequality, and unemployment, through the training of risk groups such as artisanal fishermen or small agricultural producers, improvements in working conditions and wages.

Barbara Avila was part of the Economic Advisers team in Costa Rica. She graduated in Geography from the Pontificia Universidad Católica in Chile and has many years of professional experience in various environmental projects with a focus on geomarketing, investments and communities. 

You supported the Ministry of National Planning and Economic Policy for about six months. What was your role during this time and what did your day-to-day work entail? 

I worked as the main analyst for geographical information, generating cartographic information, analysing data, collecting information, and reviewing bibliographic data. I was also part of the team that prepares the presentations and coordinates the administrative tasks of the project. We had direct conversations with contacts of the Ministry and the IKI project ACCION Clima III that supported our work. We organised meetings within the team, the blue economy and climate financing experts and with the mirror team composed of staff from MIDEPLAn, NDC Partnership, MINAE, DCC and GIZ.

What were important milestones on the path towards a green recovery in Costa Rica? Which developments could you support as an Economic Advisor? 

A particularly important achievement that our team supported was to foster the concepts of the blue economy and regenerative agriculture in recovery efforts. 

Blue Economy stands for the sustainable use of the ocean, seas and coastal resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, jobs and ocean ecosystem health. 

Through the years, various efforts have been made to re-establish ideal agricultural soil conditions; however, they have not always been successful. One of the approaches that has proven successful is regenerative agriculture. This involves a holistic system of farming that encourages constant innovation for environmental, social, economic and spiritual well-being. 

Both efforts imply not only a change in the way of producing, but also a change in lifestyle. A lifestyle that respects the environment, that is adapted to current conditions and future climate changes, making the local market more resilient, achieving a permanence in time independent of what may come, be it a pandemic like the current one, or the inevitable changes in the productive ecosystem due to climate change.

How could you pursue your goals under the challenging circumstances of the ongoing global crisis?

In order to get here at such a historically difficult moment as the COVID 19 pandemic, it was important to talk to different heads of ministries, especially the directors of regional planning. 

This was possible at our workshop in August 2021, which was attended by various stakeholders. At this event, the main progress of the project, including case studies and key areas, was presented and participants were able to provide comments based on local knowledge, which enabled the adaptation of the guidelines for further project activities.

Economic Advisory Initiative

By financing economic advisors, IKI is providing support to its partner countries during the coronavirus crisis as they work to combine economic recovery goals with climate and biodiversity targets.

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Implementing NDCs in Costa Rica

Barbara Avila’s activities under the Economic Advisory Initiative were supported by the IKI project "ACCION Clima III".

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"Sustainable use of the oceans, seas, and coastal resources, as well as regenerative agriculture, require changes in production methods and lifestyles."

Barbara Avila 

In this process, we could see how the government was able to find sustainable alternatives for a green recovery approach.

Did you face any specific challenges in your advisory work? 

Initially, this type of advisory work is always theoretical and often lacks a practical component. This makes it difficult to generate results that reach beneficiaries and that are directly usable. To make sure that one keeps moving towards the final objectives, it is necessary to constantly verify that the path taken is still the right one.

What lessons learned could you pass on to practitioners who want to make green recovery a reality? 

To my colleagues from the Economic Advisory Initiative in other countries, I would like to give the following advice: Keep in mind that when implementing green recovery projects, the feasibility of implementation, depending on the project, is as important as the theoretical part! Above all, if you really want to put the project into practice, consult the beneficiary communities as much as possible to achieve the objectives. Also, be sure to liaise with those who would put the project into practice to achieve a successful development of the project.

Barbara, thank you very much for the interview and the insights into your work in Costa Rica.