The UN today hailed this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, for his “political courage” and voiced hope the award would boost his country’s troubled peace process. The UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, “would obviously hope that this gives a big boost to the peace process which has been going through a bit of a rollercoaster in the past two weeks,” his spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva.
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 7, 2016
Friday’s announcement by the Norwegian Nobel Committee came as a surprise after Colombian voters rejected the terms of a historic deal Santos reached last month with FARC rebel chief Rodrigo Londono, alias Timoleon “Timochenko” Jimenez, after nearly four years of talks.
Handing the award to Santos despite the shock referendum vote “is clearly recognition by the Nobel Committee of just how important the peace process in Colombia is,” Colville said.
The Colombia conflict has killed more than 260,000 people and left 45,000 missing over five decades, drawing in several leftist guerrilla groups, right-wing paramilitaries and drug gangs.
It has also forced some seven million people to flee their homes, displacing them either inside the country or prompting them to become refugees.
UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters that he was celebrating the prize to Santos “in a selfish way,” pointing out that Colombia has “the largest internal displacement situation in the world.”
“It’s only through the peace process that it can be addressed and resolved,” he said, voicing conviction that “the present complicated political impasse will be overcome, and President Santos, his government and his co-actors in the peace agreement will stay the course and bring it forward.”
“So again my heartfelt congratulations for a Peace Prize that recognised essentially political courage,” he said.