FAQ

Below you will find some of the most commonly asked questions regarding sister cities and Sister Cities International. If you have any additional questions please contact us at info@sistercities.org and we would be happy to assist you.

Q. What is a sister city relationship?

A sister city relationship is a long-term, cooperative relationship between two cities in different countries through which cultural, educational, business, and technical exchanges take place. It is formalized when two mayors (or highest elected/appointed officials) sign a memorandum of understanding establishing a sister city relationship. Activities are usually organized and implemented by volunteers, local institutions, and municipal employees. A city may have any number of sister cities.

Q. What do sister cities do?

Sister city organizations plan and implement cooperative activities and exchanges in cultural, educational, municipal/technical, business, and humanitarian fields. Thousands of inbound and outbound exchanges take place every year, as well as virtual exchanges and other remote, cooperative activities. 

Q. What does Sister Cities International do?

Sister Cities International is a nonprofit member association for U.S. sister city organizations. Its staff provides assistance and expertise to over 500 member communities to help strengthen their sister city organizations. It shares best practices, provides grants and funding opportunities, assists with protocols and procedures related to sister cities, advocates for sister city organizations and international exchange, organizes conferences and meetings, publishes a printed and online directory of sister cities, networks among its membership, and provides other resources including certificates, discounted travel insurance, visa consultations, webinars, and toolkits, among other benefits.

Q. How do two cities become sister cities?

A relationship is formally created when the mayors or highest elected officials from two communities sign a memorandum of understanding establishing the sister city partnership. However, this is usually the result of a long process that involves the local sister city organization along with the municipality and other local institutions. Sister city relationships may develop from a number of sources, including but not limited to: preexisting mayoral relationships, trade relationships, historical connections, ancestral/demographic connections, expatriate communities, shared geographic/sector challenges, faith-based groups, and personal experiences ranging from study/work abroad to marriages.

Q. Who runs sister city organizations and how are they structured?

All of Sister Cities International’s members are independent organizations and have a number of management structures. Sister city organizations may be run by a group of volunteers, representatives from local institutions, the mayor’s office or municipal government, or by some combination of these. Most often sister city organizations are incorporated as 501(c)(3) nonprofits, although the municipal government may have representation or a formal relationship with the group. Many are governed by a board of directors or commission, although the majority of members are volunteers from all sectors of the community. They are most often organized by committee, with one committee for each partnership responsible for creating and implementing projects. Some sister city organizations are run by local institutions, such as a museum, cultural center, or chamber of commerce. Most municipal contacts for sister city organizations are in the office of the mayor, office of tourism/convention and visitors bureau, office of international affairs, office of protocol, or office of economic development.

Q. How can I find out what my sister cities are?

Visit our online interactive directory at www.sistercities.org. The online directory includes sister city relationships, contact information, and website/Facebook information for all current members. You can also view our printed 2014 Membership Directory and Annual Report at www.sistercities.org/2014Directory

Q. How can I get involved with my local sister city organization?

Visit our online directory at www.sistercities.org and search for your community. You should find the primary contact information for your sister city organization. If you don’t find your city it means they are not currently a member of the Sister Cities International network. You might try some basic research online or contact the town clerk, mayor’s office, or office of international affairs to see if they can put you in contact with your sister city organization. Most sister city committees have regular meetings that are open to the public.

Q. How do I set up a sister city organization for my city?

Setting up a sister city organization is a large undertaking, and is best done as part of a committee or city-wide group. First, check our directory (and do some basic web research) to see if your city already has an organization. You should not try to start a new sister city or sister city organization without first engaging an existing organization. If your city does not have an organization and you would like to start one, please contact us at membership@sistercities.org and we can talk with you about the steps you would need to take. 

Q. How can I create a new sister city?

Sister Cities International requires only that the mayors or highest elected officials from the two communities sign an agreement to become sister cities, although many cities have their own requirements and some cities may decide to limit the number of sister cities they have. You should first contact your local sister city organization if you have not done so already and talk to them about their process. Usually a group will first contact the mayor/city government to see if they are at least open to the possibility of a new relationship (some cities cap the number of sister cities they have). Please see our Cities Seeking Cities FAQ for more information on creating new sister cities.

Q. I am from a city abroad. How can I form a sister city relationship with a city in the U.S.?

If you are a municipal employee/elected official, or are working directly with elected officials in your community, then please visit our Cities Seeking Cities section at www.sistercities.org to let us know you are looking for a partner. Sister Cities International can then promote your community to cities around the U.S. and connect you if there is interest in forming a relationship. 

Q. Do you provide funding for projects?

Sister Cities International does not provide funding for unsolicited projects or exchanges. However, we do provide funding for dues-paying sister city organizations through grants or other organizations as they become available. These usually have a geographic or programmatic focus and have other requirements depending on the grant. For more information on current grant programs please visit the Grants section of the member area. All grant application opportunities are announced on our website and through member updates. To sign up for our mailing list simply create an account on our website at www.sistercities.org and make sure you do not opt out of receiving Sister Cities International’s emails.

Q. What is the difference between a “Sister City” and a “Friendship City”?

The terms “sister city” and “friendship city” sometimes have different meanings. Generally speaking, friendship cities are less formal than sister cities. In some cities, “friendship city” is often used as a first stage in the relationship, and after it is strengthened and the partners are sure they want a long-term relationship they will become “sister cities”. 

Q. How do I log in into the “Member Area” of the website?  

To access the member area you must be affiliated with a dues-paying sister city organization in good standing. The administrator for your organization is able to add you as a member of their local committee, after which you will be able to access the “Member Area” of the website. If you do not know who your administrator is please contact Sister Cities International at membership@sistercities.org and we can assist you. 

Q. How can I find out who is the administrator for our community’s profile?

Email us at info@sistercities.org and we’d be happy to put you in touch with your administrator.

Q. I forgot my password, how can I reset it?

Easy! Just go to http://www.sistercities.org/user/password. You can also visit us at www.sistercities.org, click on “Login” at the top of the page, and then click the “Request New Password” link below where you would log in.

Q. Can non-U.S. cities join Sister Cities International?

Yes, Sister Cities International allows non-U.S. cities to join as Global Members. Global Members have access to Sister Cities International’s “Member Area” and are listed in our online and printed directory with all of their sister city partnerships (not just partnerships with U.S. cities). For more information on joining Sister Cities International visit us at www.sistercities.org

Q. I don’t see one of our sister cities located on Sister Cities International’s directory or website. Why?

Sister Cities International tries to keep an accurate record of all partnerships, although often times a city may form a new partnership and not inform us. If you think a city doesn’t appear in our records but should please contact us at info@sistercities.org. Please note that Sister Cities International only lists partnerships of communities which are members of the Sister Cities International network.

For any additional questions please contact us at info@sistercities.org or visit us at www.sistercities.org.

Take Action

This year marks a pivotal moment during which Sister Cities International is celebrating 60 years of peace through people. Get involved in this momentous year.
More Information

Donate

As the world becomes smaller, and connections online become more frequent than face-to-face interactions, multicultural understanding at the community level is more important than ever. Sister Cities International enables citizen diplomats in communities across the world to develop relationships with communities in other countries that are based on cultural understanding and mutual cooperation.Donate