Sister Cities International (SCI) describes sister city relationships as a broad-based, officially approved, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. A sister city relationship becomes official with a signing ceremony of the top-elected officials of the two jurisdictions, following approval by the local city councils.
Sister city partnerships have the potential to carry out the widest possible diversity of activities of any international program, including every type of municipal, business, professional, educational and cultural exchange. Sister city programs are also unique in that theyy inherently involve three main sectors in a community: local government, businesses, and a wide variety of citizen volunteers.
Sister Cities International grew out of a program initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the late 1950's for the purpose of promoting world peace through people-to-people contact. It is dedicated to letting people give expression to their common desire for friendship, goodwill and cooperation for a better world for all. Today the exchange network includes more than 900 communities in the United States and 1,500 international cities in nearly 110 countries.
Time and experience have proven that the strength and stability of sister city relationships depend heavily on the uniqueness of the one-to-one relationship. One city may have only one sister city in a foreign county, but, may develop sister city ties with a variety of cities in other countries. Sister Cities International only officially sanctions sister city partnerships involving cities in nations with which the United States has official diplomatic relations.
Sister Cities International policies also include provisions about what happens if two cities wish to discontinue their sister city partnership. If a relationship has become completely inactive and one city in the relationship or both do not have the means or interest to work to reactivate the program, it is possible for two cities to get a 'divorce.' In this case, Sister Cities International requires an official letter from one of the two cities stating they wish to 'divorce' and end the sister city relationship.