Colombia’s nearly 50-year-old war has left more than 220,000 dead, 25,000 missing and forced some 5 million people to leave their homes.
The Colombian government and chief commanders from the country’s largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), are holding peace talks in Havana in a bid to end the war.
But during ten months of peace talks, the two sides have so far only reached a partial agreement on rural development - one item on a five-point peace agenda.
And while there is no bilateral ceasefire, both sides continue to attack each other and the number of victims continues to climb.
This all makes it difficult for war-weary Colombians to be optimistic about the 8,000-strong FARC rebels giving up their weapons, after three previous failed peace attempts in recent decades.
Latest polls show that only 34 percent of Colombians believe the talks will end in a peace deal.
But there is a glimmer of hope. The tone from both sides has shifted in recent months.
During the Havana peace talks, the government and FARC have both publicly admitted their responsibility for human rights violations, marking a small - but significant - step towards any possible peace deal and reconciliation.
“The Colombian state has been responsible, in some cases by omission, and in other cases as a result of the direct action of some state agents, for serious human rights violations and abuses that have taken place throughout these 50 years of internal armed conflict,” Santos told an audience of victims, community leaders, and government officials in Bogota in July.
This is arguably the first time the Santos government has acknowledged the role of state security forces in human rights atrocities in what the president described as "uncomfortable truths".
More recently earlier this week, the Colombian government reiterated the importance of recognising victims’ rights as the basis for lasting peace.
“Achieving a stable and durable peace implies the recognition of the victims and satisfying their rights,” the government said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the FARC also acknowledged their role in the suffering of generations of civilians in what local experts say is the first time that rebels have publicly admitted such responsibility.
“Without doubt, there has also been harshness and pain provoked from our ranks,” said one rebel commander, reading a FARC communique in Havana. “We must recognise the need to get closer to the issue of victims, to identify victims and give them reparations amid total loyalty to the cause of peace and reconciliation."
It’s a stark contrast in tone to the words spoken by the FARC at the start of peace talks in November last year, when one rebel commander said they were “the victims and not the victimizers”.
Rebel leaders have also hinted recently at the possibility of asking victims for forgiveness.
But recognising victims of the conflict and their rights, such as finding out what happened to their loved ones and providing justice, is just the first step in achieving any possible lasting peace in Colombia, International Crisis Group (ICG), a think tank, has said.
“On both sides, the state of denial still runs deep,” said ICG in its latest Colombia report published earlier this week.
“If the Santos administration and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are to lay the foundations for lasting peace as they continue to make headway toward successfully concluding talks underway since late 2012, they need to agree on a clear, credible and coherent plan for dealing with human rights abuses committed by all sides,” the report said.
Despite such immense challenges as peace talks drag on, the public recognition by both warring factions that they have committed human rights violations against innocent civilians is perhaps the most important step that has been taken so far towards fostering trust between the two sides and support among Colombians for the peace process.
The next step - and far harder step - is for both sides to offer a public apology and then ensure those responsible for war crimes are punished.
It is what Colombia’s widows and orphans, displaced families and broken communities across the country are demanding and waiting for.