New York State Sister Cities

A Global Citizen Diplomacy Network

Statement by Sister Cities International on Recent Tensions in Eastern Europe



The Sister Cities International network includes 76 U.S.-Russian and 23 U.S.-Ukrainian sister city partnerships, with many having already celebrated 25 years of mutually beneficial exchanges and cooperative activities. These partnerships have helped build understanding and peace by creating grassroots connections between communities.

As tensions have risen in recent weeks between the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine, Sister Cities International hopes that citizens of all countries keep in mind the principles of citizen diplomacy that have made sister cities an important link between these countries for the past quarter century:

  • That citizens can have a positive impact on international relations through their activities as well as through the personal relationships they create with other citizens
  • That peace is built through mutual respect, open communication, cooperation, and long-term engagement—one individual, one community at a time
  • That continued communication is necessary because of our differences, not in spite of them

Sister cities are not, nor have they ever been, an explicit or implicit endorsement of policies, laws, or actions of the partner community. Rather, they maintain channels of communication, even when political or cultural differences threaten to sever the relationships between communities that citizens have spent years cultivating. The people who participate in sister city exchanges—students, teachers, doctors, businesspeople, artists, and other private citizens—have seen firsthand how peaceful engagement and communication can help enhance their personal and professional lives as well as the lives of others in their communities.

We hope that all sister city members, municipal officials, and individual citizens maintain the perspective that it is better to support community ties such as sister cities as a way to constructively communicate with one another, and continue to search for a peaceful resolution to tensions through civic engagement.

As Sister Cities International’s founder President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “If we are going to take advantage of the assumption that all people want peace, then the problem is for people to get together and to leap governments – if necessary to evade governments – to work out not one method, but thousands of methods by which people can gradually learn a little bit more of each other.”t, images, and other content

Medical Travel Insurance Now Offered!

Members can now purchase travel medical insurance through Sister Cities International through IMG(

Request for Membership Visas

Sister Cities International has partnered with a number of immigration lawyers throughout the U.S. to provide pro bono consultations on questions members might have regarding  inbound or outbound visas. If you would like to request a consultation then simply fill out the form in the link below and our staff will connect you with the firm closest to you. If you have any questions regarding these benefits please contact us at

Cities Seeking Cities

As a member, you have access to the knowledge and support of Sister Cities International’s staff, who have worked with hundreds of programs in all regions of the world on activities in almost any field.  If you are interested in forming a new Sister City, please contact membership for assistance.

Request for Anniversary Certificates

Sister Cities International would like to help you mark important anniversaries for your sister city partnership. If your organization is celebrating a partnership anniversary (5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, etc.) and you would like to receive two copies of certificates recognizing the milestone then simply fill out the form in the link below. Our staff will contact you after your certificates have been sent. Please allow at least ten business days for receipt. If you have any questions about anniversary certificates please contact

Is Your City Interested in a Sister City in China?

Counselor Zha Liyou from the Chinese Embassy is working with Sister Cities International to expand Chinese Sister Cities in the United States.  If you represent a New York State City or municipality and are interested in learning more, please contact: Louise Simon Schoene at:

Counselor Zha Liyou from the Chinese Embassy attended SCI 56th Annual Conference and Delivered a Special Message from Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yesui

The Emerging Trends of Urbanization in China and

their Implications for Sino-US Sister Cities

------ Presentation at the 56th SCI Annual Conference, Jacksonville, FL

July 12-14, 2012

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, it’s my distinct pleasure to join more than 500 mayors, administrators, volunteers and business executives from over 30 countries at Jacksonville for the 56th SCI Annual Conference. Let me first extend my sincere congratulations on behalf of His Excellency Zhang Yesui, Chinese Ambassador to the United States of America.

I am also pleased to know that CPAFFC has sent a 6-people delegation to this conference.

Since 1979, under the visionary leadership of our two nations, CPAFFC and SCI have worked together with local governments, civil organizations and numerous individual volunteers to build closer ties between our cities. Till today, more than 200 pairs of sister province/state, cities, and counties have been established, which consequently have played an important role in consolidating the base of support for our overall bilateral relations, and our efforts to build a cooperative partnership and a new type of relationship between major powers like China and the US. For all this, I would like express my deep appreciation to SCI past and current board of directors and the executive teams for your leadership and vision. Special thanks go to Mary Kane for having me today, and to Lula Chen and others for everything they have done for making this wonderful event possible.

Currently, cities in China, in their pursuit of development, are facing the whole bunch of challenges that cities in developed countries like the US have encountered throughout its urbanization history. They include but are not limited to the following:

1. The unordered and unregulated expansion of cities has brought about huge pressures in terms of sustainability and employment.

2. Greater demand for energy and the need for more efficient energy consumption.

3. More challenges in the field of municipal zoning, environmental protection and transport infrastructure.

4. Cities are overstretched in their resources, which undermine their ability as a service provider.

All these problems could be characterized as "Old cities face new challenges". "Old" refers to the historical burden that Chinese cities have. "New" means the emerging developmental issues as a result of the industrialization, globalization and urbanization.

To resolve these challenges, Chinese cities have taken the following measures or strategies which will determine the trajectory in the coming years.

1. Low carbon and eco-friendly cities, which encourage the growth of low carbon emission industries, and increase people’s awareness for low carbon footprints and environment-friendly life style.

2. Greater soft power and cultural appeal. Currently 14 cities have been designated cities with best soft power in culture.

3. Innovation-based cities that advocate innovation and creative thinking in models of development, administrative structure and institutions, as well as greater openness. Currently 42 cities in China are undertaking the pilot program.

4. Smart cities, which means to apply the latest IT to the administrative systems. Up to now, 6 cities are selected for a nation-wide Smart City strategy experiment.

5. The transformation of administrative model, which will put social justice and equity at its core. This means reform in two aspects: one is to shift from rigid regulation to more efficient and people-first governance, the other is to move from a big government to a broad-based structure that involve all parts of the society.

Now it comes to the critical question. What does all this mean for our American sister cities?

It means enormous opportunities for cooperation in the traditional as well as new areas. China and the US started sister cities program as early as in 1979. Just imagine how sisters in real life would behave at different stages. For those in their mid to late twenties, they are matured, committed and focused. What they need is mutual understanding, pragmatic support, and strong motivation for future development.

For those in their early twenties, they are young and energetic. They are chased all over the world while at the same time they are Suitors as well. Given all the possibilities and opportunities out there, they need clear goals, perseverance and persistence in order to succeed.

And for the much younger sister cities, those who started to join this big family since the beginning of this century. Obviously they are fresh and very ambitious as compared with their older sisters, however, it will take them some time to get to know with each other and take this relationship into a more substantive stage. In this regard, what we need to do is to create a sound and favorable environment for them.

On June 3, 2012, Chinese VP Xi Jiping, when meeting with Iowa Governor Brandstad, put forward a three-point proposal for people-to-people exchange: first, [the objective] should be people-oriented and benefit the people. Second, [the effort] should be long-term and consistent. Third, [the approach] should be creative and keep abreast with the times. I believe this is a message to all of us who are working to promote people-to-people connections. With this in mind, I would like to propose the following:

1. More exchange of visits between sister cities. As a Chinese proverb says, a relative far away is no better than a good neighbor, which means that even people as close as families will drift apart without frequent visits and contacts. Sister cities between China and the US are neither families living far apart nor close neighbors. But with more connections and engagements between our peoples, we will build up a closer than ever relationship.

2. Focus in those areas where we can best learn from and complement each other. In the US, sister cities stress the role of Citizen Diplomats and volunteers, while in China, reaching out is primarily the job of government, and the general public still needs to increase their awareness and skill to involve in this cross-cultural exchange. This is exactly where both sides can learn from and complement each other and facilitate mutual development.

3. Good planning and mobilized all resources. For Chinese cities, what they need from their American sister cities are not only projects, but more importantly, your expertise in city management, environment protection, government-business relationship etc. Therefore, leaders of cities must have a holistic picture when making decision to make sure we have the cooperation we need with real deliverables.

It must be pointed out that in this whole process lies tremendous business opportunities that require visionary leaders to dig out.

4. We need to be creative in thinking and use every tool that we have. Compared with American cities, cities in China are still in the midst of urbanization, and there is still a long way to go for them to move up the value chain and achieve inclusive growth. This means that when our American cities engage with your sisters in China, you need a broader and long-term perspective, and diversified means or mechanism for collaboration. Do not be frustrated when you see something different.

In conclusion, I want to make this point. In either the US or in China, all mayors have limited terms of office, but sister cities do not and should not. As the leaders of cities with hundreds of thousands of people, it is imperative to plant the trees today for the generations to come. This requires vision and courage. As our two great countries are committed to establishing a new type of relationship between major powers, we need such vision and courage to build closer and productive ties between our cities.

With this I wish each and everyone of you here today greater success in your future endeavor.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Join the Party!  Send Your Sister City News, Press Releases, Links to Media Coverage to

Megha Swamy

Communications & PR Manager

 Louise Simon Schoene, State Coordinator Representative to the Board, New York State Coordinator and Christine Hall, Chair of State Coordinators at Wine & Cheese Reception given by the Honorary Board of Sister Cities International to Welcome State Coordinators to the 56th Annual Sister Cities Conference in Jacksonville, FL

Individual U.S.  Sister Cities Can Now Edit and Update the Sister Cities International Directory Online!  Contact Membership Director Adam Kaplan at 202.347.8634 or with any questions!

Contribute to New York State Sister Cities Blog!

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Email Louise Schoene directly at: with your news!  Thank you. Put blog in the message portion of your email.