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.”