The 2023 World Mayor Prize awarded to
Elke Kahr
Mayor of Graz, Austria
Elke Kahr, winner of the 2023 World Mayor Prize
Elke Kahr, Mayor of Graz, Austria, has been awarded the 2023 World Mayor Prize for her selfless dedication to her city and its people, as city councillor and mayor. Mayor Kahr has proven that conducting local politics close to her fellow citizens (in Bürgernähe) can be compelling and successful. Her decision to share a large part of her salary with people in need has attracted worldwide admiration


(Full list)
Commendation: “Elke Kahr, the Mayor of Graz, is a shining example of leadership and dedication. Her leadership has transformed Graz into a model of sustainability, inclusivity, and cultural richness. Under her guidance, the city has blossomed into a vibrant and environmentally friendly community. Mayor Kahr's dedication to supporting local businesses, green initiatives, and the arts has enriched the lives of Graz's residents and made the city a wonderful place to live. Her commitment to listening to the people is commendable. Graz is fortunate to have such a dedicated and visionary leader.”

Commendation: “Was mich besonders an Elke Kahr beeindruckt, ist Ihr Herz für Menschen, die in sozial prekären Verhältnissen leben. Ihre Menschennähe und Ihr Engagement für soziale Gerechtigkeit machen sie zu einer herausragenden Persönlichkeit, die auf das Wohl der Gemeinschaft bedacht ist. Frau Kahr ist  eine einzigartige Persönlichkeit, die sich konsequent für die Würde und das Wohlergehen aller einsetzt, vor allem für jene die am stärksten gefährdet sind. 

Commendation: “Elke Kahr’s respect for people extends to other cities as well. Her relations with former Yugoslav countries are warm, especially with the mayors of Slovenia, which lies a few kilometres to the south of Graz. She reached out to cities all over Europe, and her reputation made others reach out to her. The ambassador to Sweden, the Dominican Republic and Vietnam visited her, making connections reaching across the world. When Romania’s Schengen application was rejected by Austria, the Romanian ambassador came to Graz to smooth ruffled feathers. The large Slavic diaspora in Graz and Kahr’s support of them has made Graz a diplomatic anchor point between the Balkan and Austria.”

Commendation: “Elke Kahr gilt weit über die Grenzen der Stadt Graz und über Parteigrenzen hinweg als vorbildliche Bürgermeisterin. Ihre Politik ist serviceorientiert im besten Sinn, wobei sie stets danach trachtet, die Situation der Grazer Bürgerinnen und Bürger zu verbessern und stets für sie dazusein.

Frau Kahr arbeitet unglaublich viel und diese ihre Arbeit ist äusserst bürger*innennah. Exemplarisch sei der Mieter*innennotruf genannt. Dass Bgm. Kahr (wie auch die beiden Stadträte ihrer Partei) von ihren Bezügen lediglich einen durchschnittlichen Facharbeiter*innenlohn zum Leben behält, alles was darüber hinausgeht für soziale Zwecke spendet, ist ebenso vorbildlich.

Viele Menschen in Österreich würden sich ebenso eine*n Bürgermeister*in in ihrer Stadt, ihrer Gemeinde, wünschen. In Salzburg wählen wir im Frühjahr 2024 eine*n neue*n Bürgermeister*in und ich hoffe, diese*r nimmt sich an Frau Kahr ein Beispiel.”

Commendation: “As an immigrant citizen of the great city of Graz, I have never been prouder to call myself a proud and happy citizen of Graz since Elke Kahr was elected mayor of our city.

I highly recommend her for World Mayor of the Year because she is a very authentic politician who is driven by the need for social justice and building a fair society where no one is left behind, regardless of their socio-economic background. Elke Kahr embodies humility, unity, impartiality and charity.

Graz is a more open, tolerant and inclusive society thanks to Kahr’s politics of inclusion. Bravo to our World Mayor of the Year!”

Commendation: “Elke Kahr hat meiner Meinung nach auch den Bürgermeister:innen-Job wirklich verstanden. Denn sie vertritt die Wünsche, Bedürfnisse und Meinungen der Grazer Stadtbürger:innen. Und im Gegensatz zu den meisten anderen, kann sie das auch. Warum?

Weil Elke Kahr die benötigten Informationen hierzu hat. Man kann sie persönlich erreichen, Anliegen direkt an sie richten und stößt hier auf eine wertschätzende und respektvolle Gesprächspartnerin. Dies ist nicht nur telefonisch und im Rathaus möglich.

Man begegnet ihr auch immer wieder zu fuß und bei diversen Veranstaltungen. Sie ist ein Teil der Stadt Graz und sie ist Teil der Bevölkerung! Sie steht nicht über uns, sondern mitten drin.”

Commendation: There are for sure a lot of things, which are worth being mentioned about Ms. Kahr. I try to describe the most important characteristics, which make the mayor of Graz an outstanding person, in my own words. The following statements are my personal opinion and do not claim to be 100 per cent agreed with by everyone.

First of all, she is committed to the City of Graz and the citizens of Graz and proves this in her daily work. She is never too busy to listen to the thoughts and worries of the ordinary citizen. 

It also has to be said that she voluntarily waives a huge part of her salary to support those who are in need.

Unlike a lot of other politicians, she is never putting someone above someone else and treats everyone with due respect. The highest principle “HUMAN DIGNITY IS INVIOLABLE” are not just words in her case, but she is living according to this every single day.

Another quality of her is, that she does not pursue party politics, but factual politics. This is a rare political quality, especially in high politics.

Also, her understanding of democracy goes far beyond the usual understanding of democracy. This is very clearly visible in the work of the city government and the local council, where she is strictly following a way of integration. All elected representatives, regardless of party, are invited to participate in the decision-making processes.” ALL COMMENDATIONS

Essay by Elke Kahr
Full essay (English); Der Aufsatz (Deutsch)

Quotes from Mayor Kahr’s essay: 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.

It's not always just about the big stuff. Small things matter – missing access, noisy neighbours, someone needs a stair lift or some building repairs are overdue. I often inform myself on-site. If there is a conflict, I make sure to hear from both sides. But sometimes the people I meet only want to chat or get their concerns off their chests.

We all need and are entitled to human rights, an intact environment, education and work. And above all, we must strive for peace. Unfortunately, today, as we all know and see, living in peace cannot taken for granted. We urgently need a disarmament of weapons, but also of language. It is important to talk to each other openly, to listen to one another, to respect other opinions and not to be righteous.

My message for my city is ‘Together we are Graz’. My city will have a glorious future if we stop labelling and categorising people. FULL ESSAY; DER AUFSATZ (Deutsch)

In conversation with Elke Kahr
(Full conversation)

Question: The climate crisis not only affects the environment but also the social fabric of a city. What strategies are you pursuing to ensure and improve the social well-being of the population of Graz in times of climate change, especially concerning vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children and socially disadvantaged people?
Mayor Kahr replies: Many aspects of climate protection have positive effects for everyone. By protecting green areas, parks and woods from further sealing of the soil surface, we create value for everyone. Other aspects like the transition in heating systems demand our support for those who don’t have enough money to meet new (legal) requirements. That’s where we need to make sure that electricity and heating are affordable for everyone as we support the creation of renewable ways to provide energy.

Question: As a local councillor in Germany, I would like to know what councillors in other municipalities can learn from Graz.
Mayor Kahr replies: Local councillors can always learn from each other, no matter how different their cities and backgrounds are. I think one area Graz excels is the broad range of educational and cultural institutions and sports facilities. At the same time, we provide affordable services and housing for people with lower incomes. To give just one example, people who can’t afford the regular annual ticket for public transport can acquire an annual ticket for the city’s network for 50 Euros.

Question: Is liberal democracy compatible with your style of communism?
Mayor Kahr replies: If you are talking about human and civil rights, an open society, free elections and the rule of law, then yes. If you consider a neo-liberal approach to economics as an integral part of this style of democracy, I disassociate myself from this aspect. I’m convinced that it is important to have public control or ownership of healthcare, education and other services people need daily. FULL CONVERSATION

Elke Kahr's pages: Elke Kahr wins World Mayor Prize | Essay by Elke Kahr | Commendations for Elke Kahr | In conversation with Elke Kahr |

The City Mayors Foundation
London SW1
Tel: +44 20 8439 7978
The World Mayor Project was conceived in 2004 by the City Mayors Foundation to raise the profile of mayors worldwide and honour those who have contributed exceptionally to local and urban affairs. Mayors must carry out their duties selflessly and beyond reproach. The Project has no association with any city or organisation and is run on philanthropic lines. Any kind of revenue is NOT sought and will be rejected if offered. DETAILS

Winners of the World Mayor Prize since 2004: Edi Rama, Tirana (2004); Dora Bakoyannis, Athens (2005); John So, Melbourne (2006); Helen Zille, Cape Town (2008); Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico City (2010); Iñaki Azkuna, Bilbao (2012); Naheed Nenshi, Calgary (2014); Bart Somers, Mechelen (2016); Valeria Mancinelli, Ancona (2018); Ahmed Aboutaleb, Rotterdam (2021); Philippe Rio, Grigny (2021); Elke Kahr, Graz (2023) DETAILS