John P. McDonough, Secretary of State
International Division for Maryland's Secretary of State
What Are Sister Relationships?
What is the Maryland Sister States Program?
"Two deeply held convictions unite us in common purpose.
First, is our belief in effective, responsive local government
as a principal bulwark of freedom. Second, is our faith in the
great promise of Sister affiliations in helping build the solid
structure of world peace."
Sister relationships are official links between local governments enacted by
the Mayor or Governor of each region. The endorsement of local authorities,
coupled with the support of volunteers, empowers all sectors of a community
to participate in the global arena -- unleashing citizen diplomacy at the
grassroots level. Sister relationships are the only international
partnership agreements that link local governments. There are many partner
organizations (such as "People to People" and Partners of the Americas), but
none others involve the sanction and support of the local government.
U.S. Sister affiliations began shortly after WWII and developed into a
national initiative when President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the
people-to-people program at a White House Conference in 1956. President
Eisenhower’s intention was to involve people and organized groups at all
levels of society in personal, citizen diplomacy with the hope that
people-to-people relationships, fostered through sister city affiliations,
would lessen the chance of future world conflicts.
Following president Eisenhower's lead, many other countries have developed
governing bodies for sanctioning sister relationships. In Europe, for
example, the relationships are referred to as "twinnings", from the French
word "jumelages." There are 1200 U.S. regional governments with 1900
partners in 120 countries. There are many more links around the world
between pairs of non-US regional governments.
As previously isolated nations become increasingly interdependent, global
cooperation is crucial to social and economic vitality. Today, sister
relationships around the globe play a role in international relations,
diplomacy, and economic development.
- Since 1986, partnerships in the former Soviet Union have grown from 6 to 162.
- Sister Cities contributed to the end of the Cold War and supported democratization in Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS.
- Sister State relationships in the Western Hemisphere offer a network for implementing the goals of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the North
American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
- At the Madrid Summit, December 1995, the United States and the European Union in "The New Transatlantic Agenda" specifically call for sister cities to promote exchanges "with a view to deepening grassroots support for the
transatlantic relationship and enriching the flow of ideas for the solution of common problems."
- Dr. Joseph Duffey, director of the United States Information Agency (USIA), remarked during his keynote address at the Summit
of the Americas in 1994: Sister State relationships "have and should continue to be an essential tool in helping countries in this
hemisphere address the common goals and concerns we face in this moment . . . nothing can replace the personal contact that results from exchanges between sisters."
- Recently, the national sister states movement began to focus on economic development to ensure a well-rounded and active relationship. Leading this
trend, Maryland has signed sister agreements after seeing evidence of economic potential. Successful models also use cultural, sports, and
educational exchanges to create goodwill and develop strong personal relationships amongst their sisters.
About the Maryland Sister States Program
The Sister States Program is the conduit for the formal Governor to Governor
relationship between Maryland and its international Sister States. The
Program is a vital and active network of Marylanders, which serves as a
clearinghouse of information resources. The Program oversees an array of
international exchanges, promoting a balance of business, educational and
The Sister States Program:
- Maintains diplomatic relations with our Sister States
- Matchmakes between Marylanders and the Sister States
- Works with Marylanders and the Sister States to develop and maintain business, cultural and educational exchanges.
- Hosts and co-sponsors networking and informational events
- Serves as a clearinghouse for information and contacts related to the Sister States.
Working with Committees organized for each Sister State, the Sister States
Program strategically develops exchanges to create well-balanced
relationships. Exchanges can be initiated by Maryland citizens or
organizations, the international Sister States or the Sister States Program.
The Maryland Sister States Program works with Maryland companies,
educational institutions, non-profit organizations and individual citizens.
Through high-level government connections and the history and friendship
that tie Sister State relationships together, Marylanders enjoy an international
entrée on a local level that is unparalleled.
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