A Nobel push for peace in Colombia

Sat 08 Oct 2016

In a long year of war and strife, it is a silver lining that the Nobel Committee in Oslo was spoilt for choice in deciding upon the recipient of the 2016 Peace Prize. A landmark nuclear deal brought a peaceful closure to Iran’s purported nuclear weapon ambitions and paved the way for better relations between Tehran and the West, making the key negotiators leading contenders for the Prize. The yeoman efforts of the White Helmets of Syria, a group of local volunteers in Aleppo and other parts of war-ravaged Syria who help rescue people injured or stranded in bomb attacks in war zones, merited recognition. But the ending of one of the longest-running civil wars was the achievement that got the highest recognition by the Committee. The Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 has been awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos after his government painstakingly concluded negotiations by signing an accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), winding down hostilities in a 52-year-old civil war.

The accord, signed on September 26, 2016, provided for the disbanding of FARC militants and for the rebels to join the political process as a routine political party, besides conceding demands by FARC to address inequities in Colombia’s rural areas through development programmes and land distribution. FARC also agreed to dismantle drug production facilities in areas in its control which had helped finance the war against the Colombian government. This was a landmark accord that provided an opportunity not just for peace but also for better prospects in the war against drug production and trade in Colombia.

Merely a week after the accord, the government received a setback as its attempt to get the accord ratified through a referendum failed. About 50.23 per cent of the voters who turned out (the turnout was less than 40 per cent) voted against the peace agreement. Both the government and FARC have ruled out a return to war despite this setback, and even the advocates of the “no” vote, including former President Álvaro Uribe, have sought fresh negotiations for what they deem to be a better accord. The Nobel committee recognises that despite the setback there is the need for a broad-based dialogue to further the peace process. In doing so, it has provided Mr. Santos the persuasive pulpit he had lost following the referendum. The award should enable his government to seek a renewed accord that does not militate against the previous one and seals a durable peace. The Peace Prize is a testimonial to the patience required to bring about closure to complex, long-running conflicts. In this case at least, it is well-deserved.


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