Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday "for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end."
The Nobel committee said the prize "should also been seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace."
An accord between Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, recently broke down after it did not pass a national referendum. The civil war has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people. Results showed 50.2% opposed the deal; 49.8% favored it.
"The fact that a majority of the voters said 'No' to the peace accord does not necessarily mean that the peace process is dead. The referendum was not a vote for or against peace," the committee said in its citation.
"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," he said. "Especially the millions of victims that have suffered in this war that we are on the verge of ending."
Negotiators including an envoy sent by President Obama have returned to Cuba to try to salvage a peace agreement that was several years in the making.
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Syria's "White Helmets" who rescue victims of the civil war there and Greek islanders from the village of Skala Sikaminias were among the 376 nominees — 228 individuals and 148 organizations. There was also speculation that the prize would go to Ernest Moniz and Ali Akbar Saleh, the American and Iranian energy ministers who worked on the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and the world powers.
In all, 97 peace prizes have been awarded to 130 laureates since 1901. Yet only 16 women have been given the prestigious prize worth $930,000, which is chosen by a five-person committee picked by Norway's parliament.
Santos, 65, was born in Bogota, comes from one of Colombia's wealthiest families and is Harvard-educated. He is married and has two sons and a daughter.
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The average age of all peace prize laureates between 1901 and 2015 is 61. It has been awarded to 104 individuals and 26 organizations. Last year's recipient was the National Dialogue Quartet group "for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011."
Alfred Nobel founded the prize as part of his last will and testament. He died in 1895. He specified the peace prize should go each year to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."
Champion of non-violent struggle India's Mahatma Gandhi was nominated five times but never won, a decision the Nobel committee has since said it got wrong. The committee surprised diplomats and international relations experts when President Obama was honored in 2009 less than a year into his first year in office.
"Even many of Obama's supporters believed that the prize was a mistake," said Geir Lundestad, a former secretary of the committee, speaking last year. "In that sense the committee didn't achieve what it had hoped for."
For some, Santos too may be seen as an unlikely peacemaker. He is a former defense minister who rose to prominence for orchestrating a number of key military operations against Colombia's paramilitaries. One of those operations was a bombing of a FARC camp in Ecuador that he authorized without telling his counterparts across the border.