Amsterdam opts for diversity in street names – TheMayor EU

The Municipality of Amsterdam will soon be renaming its streets. The reason for this is that the current street names do not present an accurate reflection of the cultural diversity of the capital city and the contribution of the many cultures and ethnicities to its development.

The process, which started back in 2018 with an analysis of the state of affairs, will also involve local residents. They will get the chance to put forward the names of ordinary people, who have done a lot for the city.

A city with many faces

Amsterdam is one of the most diverse and open cities in the world. Its current population of 872 757 inhabitants ( includes people from 180 different countries. However, after studying the historical background of the names of the streets, the municipal authorities found out that this diversity is not well reflected in their naming.

In 2018, the city council adopted a proposal for increasing the diversity in street names, understanding that a change in the existing situation is needed. They realised that the large number of identities and cultures shaping the city’s identity together is not sufficiently conveyed through the names of these locations.

That is why it was decided not only to change them, but to make the entire process more open and transparent, involving a greater number of ordinary citizens. Residents will be invited to submit suggestions for strategic themes, such as ‘ordinary’ Amsterdammers who have done a lot for the city, who participated in sports, and who were active in human rights, migration, colonialism, slavery, war and art.

The college will ultimately decide on the selection of themes and the locals will be able to suggest names that fit in each theme. To facilitate this process, the municipality will launch an online platform where all information about street names, new and existing, can be found, and where suggestions can be submitted.

What is in a street name?

At this point, several conditions need to be met for a person to have a street named after them in Amsterdam. First of all, the name must be clear and recognizable; second – the person must have died at least 5 years ago (does not apply to members of the Royal Family) and have a special impact on society.

The names of ordinary people who may have made small contributions of great value to their neighbourhood will be accepted and names of women and other under-represented groups of society will be encouraged. Gender, origin, religion, disability, orientation, political preference will be considered so as to ensure maximum diversity. This method of street naming will be re-evaluated in five years.

In the almost 750-years long history of the Dutch capital, different motivations for selecting street names have existed – at first, it was the practical utility as a guide in the public space, in the late 17th century the elite used them for status and prestige, while in the 19th century they were reinvented to tell the story of the city, through the names of famous Dutch people.

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