In many ways 2016 has been a pretty turbulent year in the world, but there have also been many signs of hope. We saw the first-ever entirely solar-powered flight around the world. The number of tigers living in the world increased for the first time in a hundred years. And a peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the FARC put an end to the longest-ever internal conflict in the world's history.
Can you imagine? An entire generation of Colombians has never known peace. In the 50 years of violence over 200 000 people have died and over 5 million more have been forced to flee. The conflict has destroyed the country's social fabric, seriously hampered its economic development, and destabilised neighbouring countries, which for decades have received a major influx of refugees.
The historic peace agreement between the Government and the guerrillas offers a unique opportunity to break the cycle of violence. And it offers hope to families like Jazmin's that they could one day return home and be reunited with their loved ones.
Partners in peace
In recognition of his efforts to bring an end to the suffering, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016, awarded also in tribute to the people of Colombia and the many victims of the civil war. In his Nobel lecture in Stockholm on 10 December - which is also the international day of human rights - President Santos described the award as 'a ray of hope in a world troubled by so many conflicts.'
The European Union, a fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 2012, has been a long-standing partner for peace in Colombia. Throughout 15 years of collaboration we have gained legitimacy, recognition and the trust of the Colombian people, and together with our Member States, we have invested EUR 1.5 billion in peacebuilding activities.
Our most successful projects - the Peace Laboratories - have benefitted 300 000 women, men, girls and boys across Colombia through over 600 projects. These range from legal assistance, to training on conflict resolution and human rights, or obtaining access productive rights, including crops and land.
A new European Trust Fund for Colombia
On 12 December I had the pleasure of signing a new European Trust Fund for Colombia with a record number of 19 of our EU Member States in the presence of President Santos. Building on the successful example of other post-conflict Trust Funds in the Central African Republic and Syria, this Trust Fund will allow us to pool resources, expertise and actions, and be much more targeted, coordinated and responsive to the needs on the ground than ever before. Together we are providing €95 million in support.
This funding will help to support the peace process and the early recovery and stabilisation post conflict. It will help us to link our relief, rehabilitation and longer-term development actions in a much more joined up way. Ultimately our aim is to help Colombia to secure a stable and lasting peace, to rebuild its social and economic fabric, and to give new hope to the people of Colombia.
My congratulations to President Santos and the Colombian people! We look forward to continuing to work with you as partners for peace and prosperity.