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Costa Rica (, "rich coast" in Spanish), officially the Republic of Costa Rica ( or ', ), is a country in Central America, bordered by Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the southeast, the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and Ecuador to the south of Cocos Island.
Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous people before it came under Spanish rule in the 16th century. Once a backwater colony, since attaining independence in the 19th century, Costa Rica has become one of the most stable, prosperous, and progressive nations in Latin America. It permanently abolished its army in 1949, becoming the first of a few sovereign nations without a standing army. Costa Rica has consistently been among the top-ranking Latin American countries in the Human Development Index (HDI), placing 62nd in the world as of 2012.
In 2010, Costa Rica was cited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as having attained much higher human development than other countries at the same income levels, while in 2011, the UNDP also identified it as a good performer in environmental sustainability, with a better record on human development and inequality than the median of their region.
Costa Rica is known for its progressive environmental policies, being the only country to meet all five criteria established to measure environmental sustainability. It is ranked fifth in the world, and first among the Americas, in the 2012 Environmental Performance Index. In 2007, the Costa Rican government announced plans for Costa Rica to become the first carbon-neutral country by 2021. The New Economics Foundation (NEF) ranked Costa Rica first in its 2009 Happy Planet Index, and once again in 2012. The NEF also ranked Costa Rica in 2009 as the greenest country in the world. In 2012, Costa Rica became the first country in the Americas to ban recreational hunting after the country’s legislature approved the popular measure by a wide margin.