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From Conflict to Peace: Former Colombian President to Address GSX+

It was the oldest and largest insurgency in Latin America and finally, a peace deal was on the horizon.

Beginning in the 1960s—after a 10-year period known as la Violencia—the civil conflict in Colombia between the government and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) killed as many as 220,000 people, displaced 5.7 million, and caused 25,000 others to disappear.

But in 2010, Juan Manuel Santos was elected president of Colombia and said in his inaugural address that one of his main priorities for his presidency was to seek a peace deal to end the conflict.

“To the armed illegal groups, who invoke political reasons and now talk of dialogue and negotiation, I say my government is open to any kind of conversation which seeks to eradicate violence and build a more prosperous, equal, and just society,” Santos said.

Under Santos’s leadership, the FARC and Colombian government negotiated for six years before reaching an agreement in September 2016. That first deal was rejected by the Colombian people in a vote before being revised, approved by the public, and signed into effect in November 2016.  

Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering approval of the peace agreement after its initial rejection.

“The civil war in Colombia is one of the longest civil wars in modern times and the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas,” said the Norwegian Nobel Committee in a press release about its selection. “It is the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s firm belief that President Santos, despite the ‘No’ majority vote in the referendum, has brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution, and that much of the groundwork has been laid for both the verifiable disarmament of the FARC guerrillas and a historic process of national fraternity and reconciliation. His endeavors to promote peace thus fulfill the criteria and spirit of Alfred Nobel’s will.”

In his Nobel Lecture, Santos said that it is “foolish to believe the end of any conflict must be the elimination of the enemy,” and that pursuing victory through force—when a nonviolent option exists—defeats the human spirit.

“Seeking victory through force alone, pursuing the utter destruction of the enemy, waging war to the last breath, means failing to recognize your opponent as a human being like yourself, someone with whom you can hold a dialogue with,” Santos explained.

In his keynote at GSX+, “Leading with Hope, Not Fear: A Global Perspective,” Santos will reflect on this same theme and what it takes to build bridges and create unity when the task seems insurmountable. With an eye on the future, he will also share insights on the global economic outlook and what lies ahead for global security.

Tune in to the GSX+ General Session on Monday, 21 September, at 9:00 a.m. to listen to Santos remarks followed by a short question and answer portion.