The Norwegian Nobel Committee emphasizes that the award of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize to the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos is not only a prize given in recognition of his own personal efforts to end the more than 50 year old civil war in the country, but that this award is also given to the Colombian people and to all the parties contributing to the peace process.
While not explicitly mentioned, this also includes the FARC, and could be read as an appreciation of FARC’s willingness to contribute to the struggle for peace, post-referendum. The Prize is also a nod to the discrete roles played by Cuba, Norway and others in facilitating the peace negotiations.
The Committee argues that rather than representing an attempt to interfere in post-referendum politics, the Prize is intended to support the Colombian people and its government in a national dialogue for peace.
Most significantly, the Committee emphasizes that this prize is intended to honor and pay respect to the victims of the civil war.
During the course of the civil war, hundreds of thousands of Colombians have starved, disappeared, been tortured and killed and subjected to sexual violence. Millions of people have been displaced from their land. Armed actors including the military, FARC, ELN, paramilitary organizations and more recently the Bacrim (organized crime), have all been guilty of grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.
In the midst of this, Colombian civil society has through the decades continued to provide hope and meaningful aspirations for what Colombia could become if peaceful. The women’s movement, IDP and victims’ rights groups, Afro-Colombian and indigenous people’s organizations, peasant associations, environmentalists, trade unionists, LGBT-rights groups and countless others have continued to give their all for a better Colombia.
Many brave people have suffered harm or lost their lives at the hands of armed actors. Lethal violence against civil society actors has been on the increase the past number of years. Today, thousands of community leaders, grassroots activists, human rights practitioners, trade unionists, academics and journalists live with continuous death threats.
In spite of this, the Colombian civil society persist in its struggle for peace. Victim’s organizations continue to forcefully argue for an end to the war. The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize should therefore first and foremost be celebrated as a Nobel to ordinary, extraordinary Colombians.
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik is a Research Professor in humanitarian studies at PRIO and an Associate Professor, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law (UiO). Her work on Colombia focus on IDP and victim’s organizations, with special attention to women and indigenous groups.