Costa Rica abolished the death penalty in 1882, and its army in 1948. Since 1865, Costa Rica has offered asylum to those facing persecution for political reasons. From 1907 to 1918, Costa Rica hosted the Central American Court of Justice, which was the first permanent international tribunal that allowed individuals to take legal action against states on international law and human rights issues. In that tradition, efforts to establish the University for Peace began at the United Nations under the leadership of the President of Costa Rica, Rodrigo Carazo. On the 5th of December, 1980, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted resolution 35/55 which sets out in its annex the International Agreement for the Establishment of the University for Peace. The Charter of the Universityforms part of that agreement.
Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, is the Honorary President of the University for Peace.
As part of the continuing process of United Nations reform, former Secretary-General Annan took a number of measures since early 1999 to reorganize, strengthen and internationalize more fully the University for Peace - so as to enable it to contribute more effectively to the peace and security objectives of the United Nations.
The President of the University for Peace Council is Dr. Aristides Royo, former President of Panama and current Senior Partner at Morgan & Morgan. The Vice-President of the Council is Professor Dr. Bruce Jenks, is a senior non-resident fellow at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and lectures at the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and at the University of Geneva. Ms. Judy Cheng-Hopkins, ASG and representative of the Secretary-General to the Council was elected Chancellor of the University as of 23 May 2014.
The Council has defined an innovative programme of education, training and research for peace - focused on key issues, including conflict-prevention, human security, human rights, environmental security and post-conflict rehabilitation.