A city that champions international cooperation
Leeds has a long and vibrant history of international cooperation. For over 50 years we have built partnerships with cities and organisations across the world, allowing us to learn from others while promoting Leeds’ position on the global stage.
Partners from Europe to China
Our history of city partnerships dates back to the period after the end of the Second World War, when cities across Europe began to twin with each other to promote international understanding and to build peace between the nations of Europe. Leeds’ first official partner city agreement was signed in 1968 with Lille in France, a city of similar size and profile to Leeds. A year later and the German city of Dortmund was next to partner with Leeds. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that there was another flurry of international partnerships. Aligning with the UK Government’s efforts to strengthen ties with China, Leeds became one of the first UK cities to twin with a Chinese counterpart, as we began our partnership with Hangzhou. This was followed by the start of a partnership with the second largest city in the Czech Republic, Brno, as Europe began to create new links with former countries of the Eastern Bloc. Our most recent city partnership was signed with Durban in 1998 after Leeds’ active anti-apartheid movement led to a willingness to partner with a South African city following the liberation of the country.
From educational links to trade missions, our city partnerships, each one unique, have focused on a diverse range of activities that have developed and evolved over time. Today, we attach importance to ensuring these city-to-city links have a strategic focus and help Leeds to deliver its key strategic objectives around health, climate and inclusive growth. Check out the case study on Lille below to find out more about what our city partnerships look like.
Global Networks and more
International cooperation for Leeds extends well beyond our partner cities. Being an active member of international city networks is an important way for Leeds to influence international policy and to share best practice with some of the world’s leading cities.
For example, Leeds’ membership of the Eurocities network allows us to work on common challenges relating to economic development, health, climate and much more with over 190 cities from 39 different countries across Europe. This includes Leeds’ leading role as chair of a working group on children and young people where Leeds has been working closely with European partners to develop policy ideas to reduce child poverty in cities.
In 2020 Leeds also joined leaders from major international cities such as New York and Tokyo, by signing up to the OECD’s Champion Mayors for Inclusive Growth initiative, a global coalition of city leaders committed to addressing inclusive growth in cities.
Leeds has also signed up to a number of international pledges on plastic and climate, underlining the city’s commitment to work with global partners to fight the many environmental challenges our planet is facing.
Brexit and expanding horizons
The UK may have a new relationship with the EU but Leeds is still committed to working with European partners through our membership of Eurocities and through our city partnerships. To reinforce this commitment we’re planning to sign new cooperation agreements with our partner cities of Dortmund, Lille and Brnó which will outline key areas of cooperation for the future. We re-signed the first agreement with Dortmund in February 2021.
We’re also continuing to work with global partners through initiatives such as the G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance (more information below) in which Leeds was selected to participate by the World Economic Forum.
With educational links between Leeds and Lille dating back to the 1930s, the partnership was cemented in 1968 with the signing of a twinning agreement.
Activities around children and young people remain at the heart of the partnership, with recent projects exploring children’s voice and influence and cultural education. As a leading European capital of culture, Lille has lots of experience to share with Leeds as we approach the Leeds2023 international year of culture, and the connections between cultural organisations, schools and universities in both cities run deep.
More recently we have exchanged best practice around urban regeneration, learning from Lille’s experience of developing the area around its high speed rail station, as Leeds looks to develop plans for the regeneration of the South Bank.
Leeds’ reputation as a leading international Smart City is continuing to grow, with the city among a select few global cities to be chosen by the World Economic Forum to pioneer the safe adoption of new technology.
In response to the urgent challenges from the Covid-19 crisis and the need for data and innovation to support cities becoming more resilient, the Word Economic Forum is looking to develop a global framework for how cities should use these technologies and the data they collect in a way that protects the public interest.To help achieve this goal the WEF’s G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance has launched a new global policy roadmap designed to give cities the procedures, laws and regulations they need to use technology responsibly. Leeds will work 35 other cities from 22 countries including Barcelona, Mexico City, and Melbourne to test the newly developed roadmap.
g20 Global SMart Cities AlliAnce
g20 Global SMart Cities AlliAnce
Leeds is currently chair of the Eurocities Working Group Children and Young People, which brings together cities from across Europe to share ideas and best practice on how to help improve the lives and outcomes of children living in our cities.
As chair, Leeds has taken a leading role in setting the objectives and direction for the working group. This has included a recent report looking at how cities across Europe are tackling child poverty. The report has played an important part in the dialogue between cities and the European Commission, ahead of the EU’s introduction of the EU Child Guarantee, a European policy aimed at improving the lives of children in poverty.
As well as being chair of the working group, Leeds played a key role in lobbying for its creation in 2019, as Leeds was keen to ensure that children were a key focus of European city-to-city cooperation.
Chilrden & Young people Working group
Many schools in Leeds have developed international partnerships with schools across the world. We wanted to highlight the award winning Bambisanani Partnership which has seen a unique relationship develop between St Mary’s High School Menston and Mnyakanya High School in #SouthAfrica.
The Bambisanani Partnership, which means ‘working hand-in-hand’ in Zulu, began life in 2006 as part of a British Council initiative linking UK & South African schools through education and sport.
An initial link was formed between St Mary’s High School Menston and Mnyakanya High School which is in the region of the KwaZulu-Natal – one of the most deprived rural communities in South Africa. The partnership has thrived over the last 15 years and expanded to become an award-winning charity which includes the University of Leeds and Leeds Trinity University as partners.
From sport festivals to leadership programmes, the Bambisanani Partnership has engaged over 10,000 students from both countries. These experiences have helped promote understanding of other cultures and have had a huge impact on many of the students involved. Click here to find-out more.