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WORLD MAYOR 2016
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INTERVIEWS WITH
• Mayor of Athens
• Mayor of Lahr
• Mayor of Mechelen


TESTIMONIALS
• Mayor of Aleppo
• Mayor of Amstelveen
• Mayor of Athens
• Mayor of Cologne
• Mayor of Gdansk
• Mayor of Grande-Synthe
• Mayor of Hettstedt
• Mayor of Lahr
• Mayor of Lampedusa
• Mayor of Lesbos
• Mayor of Mechelen
• Mayor of Philadelphia
• Mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd

ESSAYS BY
• Mayor of Aleppo
• Mayor of Amstelveen
• Mayor of Athens
• Mayor of Gdansk
• Mayor of Lahr
• Mayor of Mechelen
• Mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd

PROFILES OF
• Mayor of Amstelveen
• Mayor of Athens
• Mayor of Cologne
• Mayor of Gdansk
• Mayor of Grande-Synthe
• Mayor of Lahr
• Mayor of Lampedusa
• Mayor of Lesbos
• Mayor of Mechelen
• Mayor of Schwäbisch Gmünd



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Mirjam van ’t Veld
Mayor of Amstelveen, Netherlands
Awarded sixth place in World Mayor 2016

14 February 2017: Mirjam van ‘t Veld has been Mayor of Amstelveen since July 2014. Before that, she was Mayor of Maarssen (2008-2011) and Mayor of Stichtse Vecht (2011-2014). In the Netherlands, municipal councils recommend mayoral nominees to the government. In most cases, the interior minister follows the recommendation and appoints the mayor who will then be formally approved by the King. Mirjam van ‘t Veld is a fully qualified nurse and worked at the Lichtenberg Hospital in Amersfoort between 1988 and 1996.

When, in autumn of 2015, the local authority of Amstelveen announced that it would house Syrian asylum seekers and refugees in an empty office building, many local residents raised concern. After all, the proposed property was close to the town’s Jewish quarter and it was feared there would be clashes between Jews and Muslims. Members of one of the largest Jewish communities in the Netherlands feared attacks on children wearing the kippah by newcomers who had been “brainwashed since birth to hate Jews”.

While Mayor van ‘t Veld understood the anxiety of Jewish citizens. She believes the best way to overcome any ingrained hostility between people of different religions or races is to enable them to meet face to face and exchange their stories.

The Amstelveen Mayor assured the Jewish community that the town was proud of them and she would do everything to prevent anti-Semitic instances. But she also asked Jewish residents to give dialogue a chance. The Mayor succeeded. Jewish volunteers visited the refugee shelters, where they drank coffee with the newcomers while explaining their different cultures and often discovering many similarities.

Extract from Mayor van ‘t Veld’s essay:
Since the World Mayor shortlist was disclosed, there has been an overwhelming feeling of humbleness in me. What deeply touched me was the nomination of the mayor of Aleppo in Syria. Just imagine to be the mayor of a city in ruins, the symbol of unbearable distress and a future with no hope. How am I supposed to compare Amstelveen to Aleppo? How am I supposed to compare my contribution to that of mayors in war zones, areas of pain and misery? This is impossible. That’s why I believe that all those mayors, who bring a ray of hope to their residents under such distressing circumstances, are the true World Mayors. MORE

Typical tribute:
Mayor van ‘t Veld has worked tirelessly to work together with the local community to welcome asylum seekers and to give them new home. Balancing the wishes of the local community with the needs of the newcomers requires more than administration and skill. It requires listening to citizens and providing dignity and a new home to the newcomers.

Amstelveen houses a large Jewish community and there was apprehension whether the arrival of Syrian migrants would not be a threat to the community. Mayor Van ‘t Veld has worked to instead see it as an opportunity to open dialogue in a different environment. The synagogue has been active and Jewish volunteers have weekly coffee moments with the Syrian refugees discussing their background.

Going against the grain of the national discussion, the Mayor sees a groundswell of volunteers willing to help the refugees. The mayor believes that investing in good housing and language lessons will pay off later as the refugees integrate into society.

The mayor has made an important intervention by involving the local Jewish community in the process of integration of the Syrian refugees. This has worked both to actively involve the Jewish community, which was apprehensive of the Syrian refugees and to show the refugees the diversity of the Netherlands and the values of our society. MORE

Further reading:
TRIBUTES | ESSAY