The president of Colombia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for pursuing a deal to end 52 years of conflict with a leftist rebel group, the longest-running war in the Americas, just five days after Colombians rejected the agreement in a shocking referendum result.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that has cost the lives of at least 220 000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people.
The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process. This tribute is paid, not least, to the representatives of the countless victims of the civil war.
“I invite everyone to join our strength, our minds and our hearts in this great national endeavor so that we can win the most important prize of all: peace in Colombia,” he said alongside his wife during his first public appearance since the Nobel announcement.
Syria’s “White Helmets” who rescue victims of the civil war there and Greek islanders from the village of Skala Sikaminias were among the 376 nominees — 228 individuals and 148 organizations. There was also speculation that the prize would go to Ernest Moniz and Ali Akbar Saleh, the American and Iranian energy ministers who worked on the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.
In all, 97 peace prizes have been awarded to 130 laureates since 1901. Yet only 16 women have been given the prestigious prize worth $930,000, which is chosen by a five-person committee picked by Norway’s parliament.
Santos, 65, was born in Bogota, comes from one of Colombia’s wealthiest families and is Harvard-educated. He is married and has two sons and a daughter.