Founder Denise Baker & former Southern Pines Mayor, Mike Haney bring us up to date on this remarkable program; how it was born and what it has blossomed into.
What is Sister Cities International?
Sister Cities International is the international membership association headquartered in Washington, DC. As the official organization which links jurisdictions from the United States with communities worldwide, Sister Cities International recognizes, registers, and coordinates sister city, county, municipalities, oblasts, prefectures, provinces, regions, state, town, and village linkages. Currently, Sister Cities International represents over 2,500 communities in 126 countries around the world.
The U.S. sister city program originated in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed a people-to-people, citizen diplomacy initiative. Originally a part of the National League of Cities, Sister Cities International became a separate, nonprofit corporation in 1967, due to the tremendous growth and popularity of the U.S. program.
Sister Cities International creates and strengthens these sister city partnerships in an effort to increase global cooperation, promote cultural understanding, and stimulate economic development. Sister Cities International leads the movement for local community development and volunteer action, by motivating and empowering private citizens, municipal officials, and business leaders to conduct long-term programs of mutual benefit.
What are the benefits of membership with Sister Cities International?
Membership with Sister Cities International is the best way for you and your community to establish meaningful and lasting global connections. Sister Cities International opens numerous doors to the world, enriching your community through educational exchanges, business development opportunities, and information sharing on issues such as healthcare and the environment. Through Sister Cities International, local citizens gain a sense of pride from being involved in solutions to global challenges and from learning about, and connecting with, people from other cultures.
Sister Cities International is an excellent way for your community to establish close relations with one or more international communities. These partnerships allow your community to creatively learn, work and solve problems through cultural, educational, municipal, business, professional and technical exchanges and projects.
As an official member of Sister Cities International, your community will be entitled to many benefits. Some of these benefits include:
. Official listing in the Sister Cities International Directory, as well as a subscription to all Sister Cities International publications including quarterly issues of the Sister Cities International Newsletter, our new e-Newsletter, and instructional guides covering all aspects of local program development.
. Opportunity for their program(s) to receive Sister Cities International-administered grants and participate in programs such as Wheelchairs for Peace and the opportunity to apply to the Sister Cities International Network for Sustainable Development.
. Special access to the Members Only section of the greatly enhanced Sister Cities International Web site, www.sister-cities.org.
. Instantaneous translation in 10 different languages for e-mails and documents.
. The opportunity to network with all members of Sister Cities International in order to share and access other program information through a comprehensive database and search engine.
. Recognition through Sister City Internationals competitive Annual Awards Program.
. The opportunity for youth to be involved at both the local and international level by competing in the Young Artist Competition.
. Voting rights for your community at the Annual Conference.
. The opportunity to participate in all Sister Cities International activities and governance processes.
. Discounted membership rates for our Annual Conference.
. Personal attention from your State Coordinator.
. Private consultation services from Professional Staff experts.
How do I become a member of Sister Cities International?
It’s simple! Just fill out our online application.
Sister Cities International welcomes U.S. cities, counties, states, territories, towns, and villages, as well as associations, businesses, corporations, educational institutions, embassies, municipalities, and individuals to join the Sister Cities International network. We also encourage international cities, counties, municipalities, oblasts, prefectures, provinces, regions, and states to join. All international communities may join under provision that they already have a U.S. sister
city and they are able to show proof (a signed partnership agreement) of that relationship. The U.S. community does not have to be a member of Sister Cities International in order for an international community to join. Anyone can become an individual member. Please click for membership benefits.
What is a sister city, county or state?
When a community of any size decides to join with a community in another nation to learn more about one another, and to develop friendly meaningful exchanges, the two communities propose a formal affiliation leading to official designation as “sister cities”. A sister city, county, municipality, oblast, prefecture, province, region, state, territory, town, or village relationship becomes official with the signing of a formal agreement by the top elected officials of the two jurisdictions. This is usually done during a ceremony in one of the communities, following approval by the local city councils (county commissions or state legislatures), as appropriate. Therefore, a sister city, county, oblast, prefecture, province, region, state, territory, town, or village relationship is a broad-based, officially approved, long-term partnership between two communities.
Partnerships have the potential to perform the widest possible diversity of activities of any international program, including every type of municipal, business, professional, educational, and cultural exchange or project. Sister city programs are also unique in that they inherently involve three main sectors in a community: local government, businesses, and a wide variety of citizen volunteers (including civil society or nonprofit organizations).
Sister city partnerships have the potential to perform the widest possible diversity of activities of any international program, including every type of municipal, business, professional, educational, and cultural exchange or project.
Why should I have a sister city?
As the world becomes smaller, communities and individuals are facing opportunities and challenges that increasingly require a global perspective. They are realizing the importance of forming international partnerships that foster economic development, cross-cultural exchange, and global cooperation. Sister Cities International is the leading citizen diplomacy organization geared toward helping communities seize the opportunities and overcome the challenges of this new global era.
A sister city program enables the citizens of both communities to become directly involved in international relations in unique and rewarding exchanges, which benefits all those involved. It enables all who participate to:
. Exchange ideas and develop friendship with their counterparts in another culture on a direct, personal basis
. Establish an identity as members of the global family involved in the constructive process of building world peace
. Develop a way for the many and diverse elements of each community to come together to enjoy and profit from a cooperative program
. Open new dialogues with the people of another culture to find unique solutions to improving the quality of life of all citizens
. Participate in a program with a real partner in another country so all members of the community can feel they are contributing to international understanding in a direct personal way
. Better understand their own community by sharing their way of life to the people of another culture
. How do I find a sister city?
. Communities find each other in a plethora of ways. Sometimes it is a top-down process, where two mayors meet then involve the rest of their community. Other times, it is a bottom-up process where a group or individual in the community, an educator, a businessperson, a service club or an ethnic association, takes the lead and organizes a sister city committee, then requests that their elected leaders form an official partnership. Some communities link because they share the same name or celebrate the same famous festival. Charming odd coincidences or chance meetings sometimes lead to a sister cities affiliation.
Sister Cities International also acts as a matchmaker, utilizing its “Cities Seeking Cities” section of the website which enables communities to “meet” one another by reviewing online profiles. All communities, both U.S. and international, must complete a “Request for a Sister City” form in order to participate in this online service. Click here to go to How to Find a Sister City How to Find a Sister City with the attached “Request for a Sister City” form. Remember, your partnership will not be considered official, nor will you have access to our resources and benefits, unless you are a member. So join the Sister Cities International network as soon as possible!
What do sister cities do?
Sister city programs inherently involve a unique kind of partnership and involvement of the three main sectors of a vibrant, productive community: local government; business; and private voluntary sectors (civil society or non-profit organizations and individual citizen volunteers). Sister city programs, perhaps more than any other international program, involve the widest possible diversity of exchanges and projects. Basically, anything that goes on in a community can become – and has, in one city or another – the subject of a sister city project, including healthcare, environment, arts, education, economic and business development, public safety, municipal training, youth, and much more.
What makes a successful sister cities program?
Commitment, creativity, cooperation, and communication are at the heart of all successful sister city programs. Also, the following elements must be present: solid support and involvement from all sectors of society, including city hall and grassroots citizens groups; a broad-based sister city committee; additional alliances (such as Rotary or Lions); excellent communication links; sensitivity to cultural differences; clear objectives; regular exchanges; and a willingness to take risks.
Variety and innovation is key. Projects can include everything from municipal training and community problem solving, to exchanges of media managers, thematic youth exchanges, or professional internships focused on volunteerism, aging, healthcare, public safety, the environment, and more.
All sister city programs should ensure that each project reflects the diversity of the Sister Cities International network. Specifically, it should promote the inclusion of ethnic and racial minorities, people with disabilities, youth, women, and people of varied socio-economic backgrounds in all sister city activities.
Where do I find funding for my sister cities program?
Sister Cities International offers funds through federal, corporate, and foundation grants. See the fundraising section (login required) for more information. The Sister Cities Network for Sustainable Development (SCND) also provides seed grants to members.