Society

What Are Twin Towns or Sister Cities?

Twin towns or sister cities are connected by a form of legal or social agreement to promote cultural and commercial ties.

Sister cities or twin towns are cities or towns in different countries which share a political or social agreement aimed at promoting commercial and economic links. The tradition of establishing sister cities dates back to Medieval Europe, but the modern context of the tradition began after the Second World War as a means of fostering peace among cities across the world. Currently there are thousands of twin cities found in all continents of the world.

Twin Cities in Europe

The tradition of establishing twin cities began in Medieval Europe. In 836 AD, the German city of Paderborn was twinned to Le Mans, France in the earliest town twinning in history. The tradition was increasingly practiced in the 20th century, with the British town of Keighley, West Yorkshire entered into a twinning agreement with the French communities Puteaux and Suresnes in 1905. The tradition of twinning was more widespread in Europe after the Second World War as a way of promoting reconciliation and peace across international borders. Modern twinning of European cities and towns is supported by the European Union, which oversees such processes through the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. Examples of twinned cities in Europe include: Brussels, whose sister cities are Madrid and Moscow; San Marino, whose sister cities are San Leo and Arbe; and Paris, whose sister city is Rome.

Twin Cities in North America

The twinning of cities and towns is also practiced in North American countries. The tradition is traced back to the early 20th century, when the earliest North American city of Toledo, Ohio was twinned with the Spanish town of Toledo in 1931. The tradition of twinning cities in the United States received governmental support and was part of a citizen diplomacy initiative established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956. Sister Cities International (SCI), a body mandated in managing the twin towns program was established as an independent corporation in 1967, separating from the National League of Cities. The organization, which is now a non-profit citizen diplomacy organization, has facilitated the twinning of thousands of cities all over the world. Sister Cities International is also responsible for the maintenance of the list of sister cities all over the world. The United States capital, Washington, is officially recognized as the twin city of Tokyo, Japan. Examples of twin cities in North America include: Havana, whose sister city is Santiago; New York City, whose sister city is Port-au-Prince; Panama City, whose sister city is Miami; and Montego Bay, whose sister city is Atlanta.

Twin Cities in Asia

The twinning of cities is also embraced all over Asia. In Japan, the tradition is facilitated by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, an agency made up of local governments across the country. The agency was established in 1988 by the Japanese government. In Tokyo, the tradition is encouraged as a way of fostering inter-city relations through city diplomacy. Tokyo’s governor, Yoichi Masuzoe, is renowned for championing the tradition. Examples of twin cities in Asia include: Tehran, whose sister city is Seoul; Bangkok, whose sister city is Jakarta; Abu Dhabi, whose sister city is Bethlehem; and Kuala Lumpur, whose sister city is Isfahan.

Importance of Sister Cities

The reasons behind the concept of sister cities may be political, religious, or cultural. Cities that were twinned for political reasons include Shusha, Azerbaijan, which was twinned with the Hungarian city of Gyongyos.

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