A former teacher in The Netherlands, Fred joined the Dutch union Algemene Bond van Onderwijs Personeel (ABOP) and took over responsibility of the union's International Affairs Department in the late 70s.
He was elected General Secretary of the International Federation of Free Teachers' Unions (IFFTU) in 1981 and held the post until the dissolution of the Secretariat in 1993. During his term of office, the membership of the organisation almost doubled, rising from 5.5 million to 9 million members.
After spearheading the merger of IFFTU with the World Confederation of Organisations of the Teaching Profession (WCOTP), He took the office of General Secretary of the EI Interim Board during the Education International Constituent Congress held in Stockholm (Sweden) in January 1993. He was re-elected as EI General Secretary at EI's following World Congresses in July 1995 (Harare, Zimbabwe), 1998 (Washington D.C., USA), 2001 (Jomtien, Thailand), 2004 (Porto Alegre, Brazil), 2007 (Berlin, Germany) and in 2011 (Cape Town, South Africa).
Education International now comprises 396 national organisations representing over 32.5 million teachers and education workers in 171 countries or territories.
From January 2007 to February 2009, Fred chaired the Council of Global Unions (CGU), which brings together all the global union federations, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD. As Chair of the Conference of Global Union Federations (GUFs) from January 2005 to January 2007, he was instrumental in the establishment of the Council.
Fred van Leeuwen was born on 22 April 1950. He currently lives in The Netherlands.