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HomeCosta RicaBritish Ambassador Ben Lyster-Binns: The UK Embassy’s Role in Costa Rica

British Ambassador Ben Lyster-Binns: The UK Embassy’s Role in Costa Rica

How has your time here in Costa Rica been so far and what challenges did COVID 19 bring to your work at the Embassy?

I’m enjoying every minute of it! I am very privileged to work on issues here that matter enormously to the UK, to Costa Rica and to me personally. I love nothing more than being in Costa Rica’s natural world.

I am fortunate in that I have been able to enjoy so much of Costa Rica’s amazing biodiversity with the committed people who live and work around it, from Santa Rosa to the Osa Peninsula, Tortuguero to Manzanillo, Cocos Island, Nicoya, Limon and lots of wonderful places in between.

I’ve been too close for comfort to a terciopelo, but still yet to see a Baird’s tapir! Tackling climate change in a way that works for people, their livelihoods and the environment is a vital priority for all of us. It is important to me that I play a constructive part in this.

COVID 19 did not help! It caused terrible human misery and presented a cruel obstacle to the happy functioning of our family, community and professional lives. In terms of challenges for the Embassy, my team handled the necessary changes brilliantly.

We adapted and made the most out of new ways of working. We all regularly work from home, as well as ensuring we have time together in the office to collaborate creatively, make the most of opportunities and generate team energy. I love to work with my staff in person, and I’m also happy that I can give them the flexibility to work in a way that suits them as well. It’s the best of both worlds!

What is the UK Embassy up to in Costa Rica?

As well as a strong climate agenda, the UK and Costa Rica share a wide set of values and priorities. Both our countries are focussed on the development of our economies – not just in terms of increasing bilateral trade and business, but also driving quality, sustainability and social development.

We also work together in the international framework, through our UK-Central America Association Agreement, in the OECD and on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) to expand our economic opportunities.

Our specialised International Trade team delivers trade and investment advisory services to UK companies in order to increase their commercial success in Costa Rica.

The team works alongside the public and private sectors here to boost international trade between both our countries, focusing on priority sectors like education, infrastructure, healthcare, cybersecurity, food and drink, sustainable agriculture, and clean growth.

We also value the importance of promoting and protecting democracy and human rights for the good of all countries and people. We cooperate immensely well with Costa Rica in the global multilateral system on these international challenges.

The Embassy focuses on projects that strengthen the rights of vulnerable groups, like indigenous communities, young women and girls and migrants, often collaborating with partners like the International Organization for Migration.

We are extremely proud of the impact that our Chevening scholarship programme has had in country. In the last 40 years, we have benefitted close to 100 Costa Ricans, who have become leaders and agents of change, locally and further afield.

How do you see the situation in Nicaragua?

Nicaragua is a beautiful country with a wonderful people. It faces the same external global challenges as the rest of us, whether from climate change or economic shocks.

The UK therefore works with Nicaragua on priorities around climate, commerce and our provision of consular services for British Nationals, including tourists, there.

The UK government is deeply troubled by the human rights situation in Nicaragua, as is most of the international community. We are trying to support projects in a number of departments that directly benefit Nicaraguan families in those areas.

You recently attended the 10th anniversary of the Odyssey 2050 climate change project’s Time Capsule, an international project that was sponsored by the (then) FCO and led by the Embassy. What climate change related work is the British Embassy involved with now?

The UK – alongside Costa Rica and France – co-chairs the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People that aims to protect at least 30% of the world’s land and ocean by 2030. We are also involved in a regional initiative to help safeguard the huge Marine Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific connecting Cocos Island, the Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador, Coiba Island in Panama and Malpelo and Gorgona Islands in Colombia.

The UK kicked off the financing with an initial US$2 million and is contributing more technical assistance, and we are very excited to work alongside Costa Rica on its implementation plans for the £1 million Earthshot Prize, awarded by Prince William in 2021.

Can you please give us your comments on the passing of Queen Elizabeth and the upcoming Coronation?

When HM The late Queen died, for a moment, the world stopped. She was our longest reigning monarch, and was a poignant example of steadfastness, dignity and deep devotion to her country and people. I think for me, and so many others, it marked an end of an era, and a connection throughout our lives to a person who exemplified a set of typically British values and service during a vastly changing world.

While I felt deep sorrow, I also felt massive respect and admiration for all she did. Belinda (my wife) and I had the honour of meeting her privately – a wonderful and entertaining experience we shall never forget.

His Majesty The King promises to uphold the Monarchy’s deep respect for British traditions and freedoms. Again, Belinda and I have had the enormous pleasure of meeting and working with him. He has said that he wants to reflect the Monarch’s current role as well as his vision for the future. We all are looking forward hugely to his Coronation on 6 May at Westminster Abbey.

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