The country’s capital city took gold in the International Awards for Liveable Communities, in the cities with populations over 400,000 category beating out 11 other finalists, including Ankara and New Taipei, according to a report published in Khaleej Times.
The LivCom awards, hosted in Al Ain from November 22 to 26, included finalists from 32 countries and 60 cities, with Abu Dhabi emerging as the winner in the largest city category, after a grueling one hour submission on six main criteria, including natural and built environment; environmental best practices; healthy lifestyle; community participation; arts, culture and heritage; and city planning.
The finalists were filtered out after a preliminary round in July.
An Abu Dhabi Municipality spokeswoman said many people were surprised with just how accomplished the UAE capital was, as it did not have the same profile as many big cities, or even sister city Dubai.
“People were very, very impressed…I don’t think people realise how much is going on in Abu Dhabi, it’s a very low profile city.” Even many of the city’s residents would be unaware of the great availability of health and community services, or environmental initiatives happening.
“I don’t think people recognise what’s going on…there’s a lot of awareness to be had. In the next couple of years a lot’s going to happen…and already there’s a lot going on. There’s wonderful things on the ground.” While Ankara was a well-established city, the toughest competition came from some of the up-and-coming Chinese cities, the spokeswoman said.
But it was Abu Dhabi’s ability to show the city’s good habits were long-standing, and it was not just “hopping on the bandwagon” of in-vogue ideas.
“This leader (President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan), even before people were talking about environmental best practices he planted nine million trees…people are shocked with what he did for sustainabilty (and) what he did for engagement.” The spokeswoman said that once the basics had been established, the discerning judging panel wanted specific details about quality of life.
“We didn’t fudge anything, they asked tough questions…we said the way it is, �We’re not perfect on air quality but we’re generally good, here’s some issues we’re dealing with’.” And the best was yet to come, she said, as Abu Dhabi became an iconic city in its own right.
“Yes there are many things we have to learn about the world, but we’re coming into our own (and now) there’s many cities that are coming to us to see how we’re doing it.” Launched in 1997, the awards have been endorsed by the United Nations, and were considered “The sole international competition focusing on the best global practices related to the management of the local environment,” Abu Dhabi Municipality said.