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UPDATE 10/3/2016: On Oct. 2, 2016, the Colombian peace deal was narrowly struck down by voters, leaving Colombians in shock. Both sides have vowed not to go back to fighting, however, meaning an era of peace is still expected.

As of September 2016, there are no more wars in the Western Hemisphere.

Yep, that's what I said. Read it again if you need to. The entire Western Hemisphere — also known as 50% of the planet — does not have a single war zone.


That's the Western Hemisphere on the left. The whole left. Photo via CIA World Factbook/Wikimedia Commons.

So that's cool.

When the president of Colombia and rebel leader Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri brokered a peace deal on Sept. 26, 2016, the only war happening west of the prime meridian came to an end.

For decades, Colombia has been engaged in a civil war. Not one war exactly — but a rotating series of insurgency groups and guerrilla movements that have taken arms against the Colombian government for over 50 years.

The last of those groups, called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, signed a peace deal with President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. The agreement will need to be ratified by voters, but the vote is expected to pass easily.

Both men wore white and shook hands as the Colombian crowd chanted, "Long live Colombia! Long live peace!"

Photo by Guillermo Legaria/AFP/Getty Images.

A simple handshake ushered in a new wave of peace for Colombia, and an unprecedented era of peace for (one half of) the world.

No matter how cynical you are, half the planet being war-free is a pretty inspiring milestone — though, of course, there are some caveats.

For one, lack of officially declared wars doesn't mean complete peace. Colombia and Mexico still suffer from drug violence.  In fact, after a three-year decline, homicides tied to organized crime in Mexico have been sharply increasing.

There's ongoing political unrest in Venezuela that, just recently, sent 30,000 protestors marching into the streets.

Government protestors running from the Venezuelan National Guard in 2014. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Here in America, we've officially ended our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but still have a military presence in the Middle East. In fact it was just announced that more U.S. troops would be headed to Iraq in the continuing fight to stop ISIS. We've also faced too many mass shootings, police killings, and domestic acts of terror recently to even keep track of.

Photo by Laura Buckman/AFP/Getty Images.

The world is far from being free of problems and conflict, but things don't change overnight. It took decades for Colombia to find a peaceful solution to their conflict, and it was no small accomplishment when they did.

News like this is a reminder that the problems of the world can come to peaceful resolutions — that step by step, handshake by handshake ... we can make the world better and safer.

It's just in time too. Because you've probably been hearing a lot of this lately...

Whether the culprit is ISIS, guns, terror, hackers, nuclear China, or "the cyber," it sure can seem like the whole world is one small step away from becoming a dangerous back alley filled with machete-wielding murderers who want to steal our jobs.

In reality, things are looking up: global poverty is down, world hunger is down, and life expectancy is up.

Whatever metric you want to use, things are looking pretty good for humanity.

Achieving "world peace" has always seemed like a bumper sticker slogan or a pipe dream, but ... that's always been kind of the point.

Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images.

Maybe we'll achieve that seemingly impossible goal one day, maybe we won't. I don't know if, in our lifetimes, we'll wake up one morning and find out that every war in the world has ended.

All I know is we woke up one morning in September 2016, and we were already halfway there.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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