Initially, 92 worldwide mayors competed for the 2023 World Mayor Prize and Awards, but only nine emerged as finalists, with Mayor Elke Kahr of Graz, Austria, ultimately winning the title. Graz has been an ICLEI Member since 2020.
Wolfgang Teubner, Regional Director for ICLEI Europe said, “In times when many leaders are struggling with a just transition, it is great to see that Mayor Kahr of Graz, who puts social justice and sustainability at the center of her policy, is recognized with the World Mayor Award.”
Since its establishment in 2004, this biennial award, granted by the London-based non-profit research think tank City Mayors Foundation, has honored mayors who have worked tirelessly to benefit all citizens, regardless of race, gender, religion, politics, or legal status. In a press release, they elaborated on the decision:
“Mayor Elke Kahr was honored for her selfless commitment to her city and its citizens.” And further: “For Mayor Kahr, local politics means wanting the best for all people in Graz, without forgetting the individual concerns of individual fellow citizens. Her decision to share a large portion of her salary with those in need has attracted worldwide admiration. Mayor Kahr has proven that citizen-centered politics can be compelling and successful.”
With nearly 300,000 inhabitants, Graz is Austria’s second-largest city after Vienna. Mayor Kahr has served since 2021.
All finalists were invited to contribute an essay about their leadership’s insights during the award process. Mayor Kahr wrote:
“Personal contact with people, with the citizens of Graz, has always been the most important aspect for me as a local politician. I spend as much time as possible in all parts of the city. I visit people in their homes and hold surgeries. It is important to talk to people face-to-face to learn about their problems and concerns. I don’t need studies to know where the shoe pinches. My message for my city is ‘Together we are Graz’. My city will have a glorious future if we stop labeling and categorizing people.”
To know more about Mayor Elke Kahr, read her full essay here.
This year’s edition also granted other recognitions. ICLEI Member Mayor Manuel De Araújo of Quelimane, Mozambique, received the 2023 World Mayor Jury Award for his defense of democratic values in his country and his ambitious plans and initiatives to establish Quelimane as one of the most sustainable cities in Africa.