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Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos wins Nobel Peace Prize -

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MATT WORDSWORTH, PRESENTER: The President of Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, has been named the winner of this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

The announcement was made a short time ago at a ceremony in the Norwegian capital, Oslo, with the Nobel Committee highlighting the efforts of Mr Santos to bring peace to his country.

KACI KULLMANN FIVE, NORWEGIAN NOBEL COMMITTEE: For his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year long civil war to an end - a war that has cost the lives of at least 220,000 Colombians.

MATT WORDSWORTH: A record 376 candidates were nominated for this year's award. Their names remain a closely guarded secret, but among those speculated to be on the list were Syria's White Helmets and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

ABC Europe correspondent James Glenday joins me now.

James, so many people nominated this year. But what did the committee say lifted President Santos above them all?


The main reason he was listed and elevated above them all was because he has really staked his entire political legacy on securing peace. Fifty-two years the Government and the FARC rebel groups have been exchanging words, exchanging gunfire. And bombings and shootings have become daily parts of life for many, many Colombians for so long.

He said that he was going to fight 'til the end of his time in office to do everything he could to secure peace. But of course, quite controversially just last weekend, the historic accord which was agreed to between FARC and the Government was narrowly voted down by the people.

So it will be interesting to see whether or not this Nobel Prize was a little bit premature because, of course, there are some people who worry that the country will return to war.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Has President Santos responded to this announcement tonight?

JAMES GLENDAY: Well, we understand that he might not actually even know that he's won. These awards are such a closely-guarded secret that the nominees aren't revealed until 50 years after the actual event and the winner isn't informed beforehand.

And when this had all happened it was about 4am in the morning. Obviously Columbia's political situation is still incredibly fractious and apparently the President had been up quite late. So his staff didn't want to wake him: was the last we heard. So as we go to air, we don't even know if the man himself is aware he's won one of the world's most prestigious prizes.

MATT WORDSWORTH: So tell us about this referendum, this plebiscite, this peace process that led to this historic Nobel Prize tonight?

JAMES GLENDAY: Well, for the past four years there have been fairly fractious negotiations between FARC and also the Colombian President.

There have been a lot of very contentious issues, but among the most contentious were: what to do about people who had carried out murders, executions, raids on villages, things like that; whether or not and how they should be punished.

Some of the agreements that they came to included people who may have killed a number of people, even carried out executions, doing things like community service for a number of years.

There were also some concerns that the FARC rebel group agreed to come to the table because they were told that they'd be included in the Colombian political system and actually even reserved a small number of seats as a matter of course. And there were people who were opposed to that, because they said that rebel fighting against the Government therefore was a legitimate pathway towards political representation.

So those issues are thought to have played a very, very big role in why this referendum didn't get over the line. The turnout was incredibly low and the margin was tiny: some 54,000 votes separated this, out of 13 million cast. So it was only 50.2 per cent of people rejected it. And that's why both parties have come back to the table and said, "We can do a peace deal."

MATT WORDSWORTH: If the Nobel Committee was so impressed with President Santos, then why wasn't the other side to this negotiation process, the FARC leaders, Timochenko, included in the prize?

JAMES GLENDAY: It's an interesting question, because the pre-Nobel speculation - which is a fine art in itself, because it's so often completely wrong - was that President Santos might be awarded this, along with the rebel group and maybe even along with the people of Columbia as a whole, because of a way of bringing the nation together.

When they announced this award, the Nobel Committee did say that this was a recognition of the broader Colombian community and the broad desire in that country now to proceed towards peace. And it actually says in the official statement that I've got here that they're hoping that it actually does encourage and lead this peace process to continue, so that the war might finally come to an end.

There was a lot of controversy, though, about the FARC: obviously some of the different executions, some of the different raids, the role of FARC. And perhaps that's why it wasn't included.

MATT WORDSWORTH: Just on the topic of why now was this peace prize awarded: I was listening to the committee when they were making the announcement. I got the sense that it wasn't about what had been done, which is why so many other people win the peace prize: it was almost a message being sent to Columbia?

JAMES GLENDAY: It's an interesting decision, because it was a message. This is one of the world's longest-running wars. The majority of the Colombian population has known nothing but civil war. And I think it's the last big armed conflict in the Americas, too.

So it was a message, but it has the potential to be quite controversial down the line because, of course, all Nobel Peace Prizes are judged somewhat in hindsight. Because if this peace process falls over, a lot of people might say, "Well, that was really way too premature."

But it was interesting to note that Angela Merkel was one of the hot favourites to take it out last year, but of course the political tide has turned against her quite substantially in Germany. So it is - Barack Obama is another example of someone who was given this award early on in his presidency. So it will be interesting to see what happens.

Perhaps this can be a force for good and perhaps that's what the committee was hoping for: that they can somehow help spur this on at a time when the deal does really hang somewhat in the balance.

MATT WORDSWORTH: And just on those other nominees: I noticed that one of the big favourites this year were the Syrian White Helmets?

JAMES GLENDAY: Yes: the group that pulls people out of buildings that have been bombed. They were one of the favourites.

Traditionally the favourite actually doesn't win this, though. So perhaps that is partly why. If they had won it, the Syrian Government wouldn't have been particularly happy with that because they think the group is politicised. And perhaps Russia might not have been particularly pleased, too. But they were, as you said, the red-hot favourites going into this.

But a huge number of names are thrown up ahead of these awards: there was Angela Merkel, as you said. Even someone suggested Nigel Farage because of getting Britain out of the EU. So some of the nominees are more likely to get up; some of them not. The Pope was another one.

But yes: now we know it's the President of Columbia.

MATT WORDSWORTH: All right. James Glenday, we'll leave it there. Thanks for your time.