(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Governments contending with local insurgents should struggle for peace and reconciliation because "it is better to negotiate peace than to continue in a state of war", said Juan Manuel Santos, former President of Colombia and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, during his talk at the World Government Summit (WGS) in Dubai on Sunday.
Santos, who served as the president of Colombia for eight years from 2010 to 2018, focused on the topic 'Leading Nations from Conflict to Resolution' and shared his experiences during his tumultuous presidency.
Since 1960s, his country has been plagued by civil war, that has claimed the lives of almost eight million Colombians. In August 2012, he announced that the Colombian government had engaged in exploratory talks with Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in order to seek an end to the more than five decades long civil war.
A ceasefire agreement was reached in June 2016 and in October the same year, Santos proffered a referendum on peace agreement, which was rejected by the majority of the Colombians. Santos, however, sent it to Congress for ratification instead of conducting a second referendum.
For his peace effort, Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited him for encouraging continued dialogue and struggling for peace and reconciliation. "The objective of my life is to fight for peace in Colombia," Santos said at the WGS. "I thoroughly studied 17 peace negotiations, including that between Israel and Palestine.
"In our fight against FARC, we used both the carrot and stick but I treated FARC not as enemies but as adversaries. With the enemies, you destroy them but with adversaries, you don't destroy them because you have to live with them for the rest of life. There has to be respect for human rights of your adversaries."
However, Santos started as a 'hawk' in the government. He once served as the Colombian Minister of Defence who launched a series of harsh and bloody campaigns against the insurgents, who were mostly disenfranchised farmers and workers. "I was elected with the highest margin of votes in 2010 because I was a successful defense minister - a hero of war. Then, when I started negotiating for peace, people asked why did I change?"
Santos said it was "extremely difficult to explain to the people why we are negotiating for peace, especially to those who are benefitting from the war.