“We all strive for a safe and stable society. That is our (daily) work in progress. The challenges we face (whether they are economic, social or environmental) have to be met in collaboration with all our citizens. In times when people tend to be divided in groups, it is important to build bridges and understanding for the common good.”
– Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb
Mayor Aboutaleb, who came to the Netherlands from Morocco at the age of 15, is the first mayor of a large city in the Netherlands who is of both immigrant origin and the Muslim faith. Mayor Aboutaleb started his career in media and public relations, then became director of the Forum organisation, an institute dealing with multiculturalism in the Netherlands. In January 2004, Aboutaleb succeeded Rob Oudkerk as alderman in Amsterdam. He then served as the State Secretary for social affairs, and then eventually became appointed as mayor of Rotterdam in October of 2008. Mayor Aboutaleb has often been in the media spotlight for his stances on issues of immigration, race, and faith. He is well-known for his confident way with words, having famously denounced extremists after the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Rotterdam South is the poorest part of Rotterdam. Unemployment is relatively high, and the area has a much higher concentration of immigrants. National Programme Rotterdam South, a collaboration between the Rotterdam municipal government under Mayor Aboutaleb and the national government, has sought to combat the district’s social and economic deprivation and balance the inequalities between the standards of living north and south of the River Mass through a longterm strategy of urban regeneration and active inclusion that will run until 2030. Initiatives include:
– Pre-school education aimed at learning Dutch being linked to local grade schools
– Skills development promoted by putting vocational schools in direct contact with companies and small and medium sized enterprises in the logistic and harbour sectors
– Facilities for aspiring entrepreneurs where they can get help and funding for their business plans
This Programme has been accompanied by a social return policy under which all city funded projects over 15,000 euros have to allocate a certain percentage of their budget for employment opportunities for disadvantaged groups. These projects amount to an estimated 800 million euros per year.