Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Wins Prestigious Chatham House Prize for Forging Peace Deal with FARC
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has won the prestigious Chatham House Prize for his role in forging a peace agreement with the nation’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The historic accord, passed into law last December, brought an end to more than a half-century of conflict that killed more than 260,000 people and displaced seven million.
“His determination and commitment to peace guided the main parties and international partners to one of the biggest successes in brokering peace in modern history.” – Chatham House
“In 2016, after four years of negotiation, Juan Manuel Santos led the Colombian government in ratifying a peace agreement with the FARC,” stated the organization. “Success was by no means certain … This was a complex, sensitive and intense process which required exceptional political diplomacy and perseverance. Ultimately, his determination and commitment to peace guided the main parties and international partners to one of the biggest successes in brokering peace in modern history.”
The Chatham House prize is handed out annually by the Royal Institute of International Affairs, a London-based non-governmental policy institute commonly known as Chatham House. According to the Chatham House, the award is intended to honor a person or organization “deemed by members of the Royal Institute of International Affairs to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year.”
The prize was first awarded in 2005 by the organization, which was founded in 1920 in concert with the U.S.-based Council of Foreign Relations in the aftermath of Paris Peace Conference that ended World War I. Previous winners include former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, and philanthropist Melinda Gates, who cofounded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Santos will formally receive the award on November 9 at a ceremony in London. The Colombian head of state beat out two other nominees who made the final short list: Charlotte Osei, chairperson of the electoral commission of Ghana, and Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO.
This award comes roughly a year after Santos won the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for working to end the conflict. While a deal with the FARC had not been finalized at the time he won the world’s top peace honor, the organization wanted to recognize the years of effort, and Santos credited the award with helping to reach the accord.
“It is much harder to make peace than to wage war,” said Santos in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize last year. “When it is absolutely necessary, we must be prepared to fight, and it was my duty – as defense minister and as president – to fight illegal armed groups in my country. When the roads to peace were closed, I fought these groups with effectiveness and determination. But it is foolish to believe that the end of any conflict must be the elimination of the enemy. A final victory through force, when nonviolent alternatives exist, is none other than the defeat of the human spirit.”
The controversial peace accord led to the demobilization and disarmament of the roughly 7,000 former combatants within FARC, which handed over its weapons to United Nations inspectors this summer and, in accordance with the deal, formed a political party in September. In the years to come, FARC’s party will receive 10 guaranteed seats in Congress through 2026 and its top leaders will face a judicial tribunal regarding the crimes carried out by the group.
While politicians opposed to the peace agreement have sought to dismantle it if they are able to take power in next year’s elections, the nation’s Constitutional Court recently ruled that it cannot be altered and must remain the law of the land for the next 12 years.
Photo: Juan Manuel Santos speaks at Andicom 2017 in Cartagena. (Credit: Jared Wade)