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International Strategy and International Partnerships

All of Sunderland's international work is delivered within the context of our International Strategy. Some of this is done through the relationships Sunderland has with longstanding international partnerships.

The overall aim of the International Strategy is 'to ensure the city's international engagement supports the Sunderland Partnership in achieving its vision for Sunderland, maximising the opportunities and benefits for the city and its residents'. Partners focus on supporting businesses, strengthening the international dimension in educational and cultural activities, sharing good practice with other cities, and raising the city's profile.

Sunderland has been twinned with Essen in Germany since 1949 and with Saint-Nazaire in France since 1953.

The city has also had Friendship Agreements with international partners in Washington D.C. since 2006 and with Harbin in China since 2009.

Essen is the sixth largest city in Germany, with around 600,000 inhabitants and is the second largest city in North Rhine Westphalia. Essen was chosen to be twinned with Sunderland because of a common dependence on coal mining and heavy industry.  Like Sunderland, Essen has seen considerable structural changes in its economy over the last few decades, reflected most significantly in the demise of the steel and coal industries, and its economy is increasingly built on international trade, the service sector and an expanding leisure and cultural industry.

Saint Nazaire has a population of 70,000 and stands at the mouth of the Loire on the Atlantic Coast of France.  Its location explains its importance as one of France's major ports and shipbuilding centres.  Saint-Nazaire was chosen to be twinned with Sunderland on the basis of a common maritime and shipbuilding heritage.  These industries together with aerospace manufacturing continue to be the major employers.  The town also has an expanding tourism industry exploiting its naval heritage and coastal setting.

Washington DC is the capital of the United States and lies between the states of Maryland and Virginia on the Potomac river. The city has a population of around 600,000 people, rising to 1 million during the working day. Washington DC has a unique connection to Sunderland with George Washington's ancestral home being Washington Old Hall.

Harbin is China's 10th largest city with a population of almost 10 million people.  Harbin is located in the North East of China and was the power house for China's industry from the 1950s.  Harbin is regenerating its economy and developing new industries. 

For further information, contact the international team at or on 00 44 (0) 191 561 1156.

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