The President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos has won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the 50-year conflict that has dogged his country.
The prestigious award comes less than a week after the peace deal between the government and rebel movement Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was rejected by a narrow margin in a referendum that shocked the world.
50.2% of voters voted against the deal, while 49.8% voted to accept the agreement that would grant amnesty to FARC’s guerrilla fighters – a difference of fewer than 54,000 votes. It is widely believed that the ‘no’ vote was driven by perceptions that the terms of the deal were too favorable to the FARC rebels.
In the announcement of its decision, the Nobel committee declared:
“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.”
Santos is reported to have been “overwhelmed” in response to receiving the award.
“This is a great, great recognition for my country,” Santos said in an interview with the Nobel Foundation. “I receive this award in their name: the Colombian people who have suffered so much in this war. … Especially the millions of victims that have suffered in this war that we are on the verge of ending.”
The prize is a reminder that the peace process in Colombia is far from over. Santos has committed to continuing to work for a peace deal that the whole country can accept, asserting that the people of Colombia did not reject peace, but the specific terms of the current deal.
Santos beat stiff competition for the prize, including The Syrian White Helmets and the Greek islanders opening their homes to refugees arriving daily on the Mediterranean coast.
Previous Nobel Peace Prize winners include President Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malala Yousafzai, who congratulated Santos in a powerful tweet: