Sister Cities International
Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, Sister Cities International is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan serving as the national membership organization for individual sister cities, counties, and states across the United States. This network unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers in programs in 143 countries on six continents.
A sister city, county, or state relationship is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. A sister city, county, or state relationship is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed official from both communities sign off on an agreement.
A city may have any number of sister cities, with community involvement ranging from a half dozen to hundreds of volunteers. In addition to volunteers, sister city organizations may include representatives from nonprofits, municipal governments, the private sector, and other civic organizations.
Sister city relationships offer the flexibility to form connections between communities that are mutually beneficial and which address issues that are most relevant for partners.
Mission: “To promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.”
Sister Cities International strives to strengthen the sister cities network through strategic institutional partnerships, grants, programs, and support for its members. Sister Cities International motivates and empowers private citizens, municipal officials, and business leaders to conduct long-term, mutually beneficial sister city, county, or state relationships.
A sister city organization is a volunteer group of ordinary citizens who, with the support of their local elected officials, form long-term relationships with people and organizations in a city abroad. Each sister city organization is independent and pursues the activities and thematic areas that are important to them and their community including municipal, business, trade, educational and cultural exchanges with their sister city.
Sister city organizations promote peace through people-to-people relationships—with program offerings varying greatly from basic cultural exchange programs to shared research and development projects between cities with relationships.
Sister Cities International was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. By forming these relationships, President Eisenhower reasoned that people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.
Sister Cities International creates relationships based on cultural, educational, information and trade exchanges, creating lifelong friendships that provide prosperity and peace through person-to-person “citizen diplomacy.” Since then, Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and now President Barack Obama have served as the Honorary Chairman of Sister Cities International.
Since its inception, Sister Cities International has played a key role in renewing and strengthening important global relationships. Early partnerships included a trading relationship between Seattle, Washington and Tokyo, Japan, repairing post-WWII tensions by creating cultural and educational exchanges and, subsequently, lasting friendships. A 1974 study found that many early sister city relationships formed out of the post WWII aid programs to Western Europe. The relationships that endured, however, were based on cultural or educational reasons that developed lasting friendships. Sister Cities International improved diplomatic relationships at watershed moments over the past 50 years, including partnerships with China in the 1970s.
In the new millennium, Sister Cities International continues to expand its reach to new and emerging regions of the world. Today, it dedicates a special focus on areas with significant opportunities for cultural and educational exchanges, economic partnerships, and humanitarian assistance.