Ahmed Aboutaleb, mayor of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and Philippe Rio, mayor of Grigny in France, have been named joint winners of the 2021 World Mayor Prize.
Aboutaleb was recognised for his commitment to treat all citizens as ‘Rotterdammers’, irrespective of their origins and backgrounds, while, as leader of one of the poorest towns in France, Rio is described as a social visionary and pragmatist.
Stronger, fairer, greener cities
The World Mayor Project is organised by the philanthropic City Mayors Foundation, an international research think-tank dedicated to local government. The 2021 project was dedicated to “stronger, fairer and greener cities” and was launched at the start of the Covid-19 crisis and conducted during the various waves of the pandemic.
The organisers said the pandemic has made it clear that cities need to become better prepared for future man-made or natural disasters. And at a time when human and civil rights in many parts of the world are questioned and violated, World Mayor 2021 has commended mayors who uphold these rights.
The list of mayors honoured by World Mayor in 2021 includes city leaders from large metropolises, medium-sized cities and small communities. Their conduct, goals and achievements have been strongly endorsed by their fellow citizens.
Aboutaleb is one of the longest-serving and most respected mayors in Europe, and has led the City of Rotterdam since 2009. An essay written about him on the World Mayor website by Jan Anthonie Bruijn, president of the Senate of the Netherlands, highlights his toughness on injustice, misconduct, and fraud, and his focus on bridging the inequality between the different parts of the city. “The fact that he is not afraid to call things as he sees them, contributed to his popularity,” writes Bruijn.
He has earned a reputation for getting out and speaking to citizens and while this has been more difficult during the pandemic, he reportedly continually looked for ways to stay in touch with Rotterdammers.
Bruijn reports that to reach the student population, he went to the student areas in the city to bring them a box with information about the virus, masks, and posters to hang in their dormitories. Contents were composed in collaboration with the students and Aboutaleb awarded €10,000 for the best idea to make students aware of the importance of the Covid-19 measures.