Local government can play an essential role in international relations. Many local councils maintain sister city relations. However, formal sister city relationships are not the only way a local government engage in international relations. Many councils have informal or ‘friendship’ arrangments with cities in other countries.
Why do local governments engage in international relationships?
Sister cities began following world war two. The goal was to develop friendships and deepen cultural understanding through the exchange of information and ideas. Arguably the need to promote international understanding and friendship is more important today than it has been since World War 2.
Local government diplomacy can also support economic development. Examples of economic development opportunities include facilitating trade and investment. It is also common for councils to use their relationships as a platform to promote their area for tourism and international study.
International relationships can also help to enhance local communities. Events celebrating our global partnerships enhance neighbourhoods. Cultural exchanges not only grow an understanding of each other but also strengthens respect for our own culture. City relationships also can create international exchanges and overseas work experience opportunities for young people.
Apart from the benefits listed above, there are many additional opportunities from local government international relations. To name a few success stories: Auckland’s relationship with Guangzhou has attracted thousands of international students to their city; Wellington’s relationship with Seoul has led to Korean movies being filmed in New Zealand, creating thousands of jobs. Hasting’s relationship with Guilin saw the transfer of apple and kiwifruit varieties from China transforming the Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty horticulture sectors.