The London-based City Mayors Foundation, an international think tank dedicated to local governance, presents the award, a sculpture, every two years. In addition to Aboutaleb, Philippe Rio, mayor of Grigny in France, will also receive the prize.
Aboutaleb has been mayor of Rotterdam since January 2009. At 10 past 7 tonight he was emailed by the organization with the message that he had won the prize.
He had not expected that, he tells RTL Nieuws. “I must say that I think it is a very special award. I knew they were working on it because the organization had asked quite a few questions of people around me. But if you know that it concerns an enormous diversity of mayors from all over the world is the last thing you expect the choice to fall on you.”
Yet that happened because, according to the foundation, Aboutaleb treats all citizens as ‘Rotterdam residents’, ‘regardless of their origin and background’.
Both mayors share a strong belief that upholding the values of peace, freedom, equal rights and human dignity are essential for social cohesion.
‘Nice that this stands out’
Aboutaleb recognizes himself in that. He immediately thinks of what happened around Charlie Hebdo, he says. The world was in shock, and he was allowed to give a speech to the people of his town.
“I was allowed to tell a story that provided a kind of understanding for many people who felt sadness and pain and wanted to get a hearing from their mayor. I think acknowledging and addressing that pain did a lot of good for people. You do it because that’s part of it.” of the way you look at life as mayor, but it’s nice when that stands out.”
In addition, according to the judges, both mayors have shown ‘exceptional leadership’ during the corona pandemic, ‘realizing from the start that the virus can threaten the most vulnerable parts of society’.
“Ahmed Aboutaleb, one of the longest-serving and most respected mayors in Europe, has led the city of Rotterdam since 2009 with courage, patience and humility,” said Tann vom Hove of the foundation.
Whether the award is a high point in his career? “This colors it in. I hope it does Rotterdam well. That it brings national and international recognition.”
‘Good for Rotterdam, good for the Netherlands’
Aboutaleb wants the world to look at the city positively. “That beautiful things happen in the city, that the city is led here with compassion. I hope that it will become a bit of the image. This is good for the city, but also good for the Netherlands.”
The price must be placed somewhere on the town hall, he says. There may also be a small party tomorrow. “But on Wednesday we will move on to the order of the day.”