Naheed Nenshi, Calgary's mayor, is on top of the world.

The World Mayor Project has awarded Nenshi the 2014 World Mayor Prize.

The award was conceived in 2004 and bestowed every two years to a mayor who has developed and realized a vision for urban living that is relevant to towns and cities across the world.

Nenshi told reporters today the announcement was a great surprise and a great birthday present.

"I understand that there were scores of people, Calgarians and Canadians, who wrote in letters of recommendation, who wrote in their own comments, who wrote in nominations," he said. "To me that's very humbling, that's very kind of people to take that time, because these were not short comments."

Nenshi was first elected in 2010 and became the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city.

Six weeks before the election, opinion polls pegged Nenshi with only eight per cent support. His savvy social media campaign, dubbed the Purple Revolution, eventually helped propel him to victory.

Three years later, he was re-elected with almost three-quarters of the vote.

25 other finalists

The award aims to raise the profile of mayors worldwide by honouring those who have served their communities well by governing openly and honestly, and those who made significant contributions to cities nationally and internationally.

"All I try to do is be very authentic, be real with people and just focus on working hard on making this community a better place, just like everyone else in the community. So I'm super happy about it, but I'm a little bit overwhelmed by the whole thing as well."

Nenshi was chosen over 25 other finalists for the honour. He said he's looking forward to using the platform the recognition will bring to the city. 

"I think it gives us a lot of great visibility, it gives us the opportunity to talk about what we're doing here in Calgary on a national and international stage, which is always important for us, particularly in these tough economic times," he said.

The mayor of Ghent, Belgium, Daniel Termont, took the first runner-up spot, followed by Tri Rismaharini of Surabaya, Indonesia.