The sister cities concept was launched in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed linking American cities with cities in other countries to exchange people, ideas and cultures. President Eisenhower’s goal was to involve individuals at all levels of U.S. society in citizen diplomacy in the hope that these people-to-people relations would lessen the chance of future world conflicts. Founded in 1956, Sister Cities International is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) nonprofit which serves as the national membership organization for individual sister cities, counties, and states across the U.S. Sister Cities International serves as a hub for institutional knowledge and best practices in the field of citizen diplomacy. As a membership association, Sister Cities International continues to strengthen the sister cities network through strategic institutional partnerships, grants, programs, and support for its members.
Sister City relationships are official relationships established through formal agreements by the respective municipal governments. Houston’s sister city program is a volunteer-based program that works with the City of Houston to further the sister city relationships. Volunteers develop and implement programs and activities that connect the cities on mutually beneficial matters.