The Peace Connection

Nobel Prize honors efforts of Colombian president, a former Fletcher fellow, to end war

President Juan Manuel Santos and Timoleón Jiménez shaking hands

The president of Colombia, a former fellow at the Fletcher School, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Oct. 7 for pursuing a deal to end more than a half-century of war with a leftist rebel group. In a shocking move that epitomized the ups and downs of four years of negotiations leading up to the agreement, voters rejected the accord just five days before the Nobel was announced.

In August, President Juan Manuel Santos forged the agreement with leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) that would have led the guerrillas to disarm and re-enter civilian life, even running for political office. Voters had been expected to approve the pact by a resounding margin.

Santos said he would donate the nearly $1 million in Nobel Prize winnings to victims of the 52-year conflict. Approximately 220,000 Colombians have been killed and more than 5 million internally displaced by the war.

“President Santos is a thoughtful, intelligent and personable leader who cares deeply about his country and its people,” said James Stavridis, F83, F84, dean of the Fletcher School, who has known Santos since a decade ago, when Santos was Colombia’s defense minister and Stavridis led U.S. Southern Command. “The stance he has taken in support of the long-negotiated peace accord is politically courageous and will benefit Colombia over the long term, ensuring prosperity, peace and an end to a half-century insurgency. We are proud to count him a fellow of the Fletcher School, and he is a wonderful living example of the importance of law and diplomacy in today’s turbulent world.”

Some observers thought the recognition from the Nobel committee might help Santos revive the peace agreement. Critics said the deal was too lenient on the guerrillas.

Santos, an economist, was a Fulbright visiting fellow at Fletcher in 1981. As Colombia’s defense minister from 2006 to 2009, he organized a counterinsurgency campaign that weakened the FARC, which has been fighting the longest-running civil war in the Western Hemisphere.

After the Nobel announcement, Santos said, “I invite everyone to join our strength, our minds and our hearts in this great national endeavor so that we can win the most important prize of all: peace in Colombia.”

Heather Stephenson can be reached at

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