Sister Cities Overview

Members of Sister Cities program

A sister city is an official relationship between two cities that promotes peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation - one individual, one community at a time. The Peace Commission has official responsibility for establishing and maintaining Cambridge’s sister city relationships, and Cambridge has established eighteen sister city relationships since 1982 — and most recently has established a relationship with the city of Les Cayes, Haiti. 

Sister city relationships create international awareness and understanding through cultural, educational, civic, and business exchanges with our international partner cities. A sister city relationship empowers individuals, organizations, educators, businesses, and municipal officials to act as citizen diplomats. 

Cambridge has seven official sister cities with active relationships:

  • Coimbra, Portugal: established June 1982
  • Gaeta, Italy: established December 1982
  • Tsukuba, Japan: established October 1983
  • San José Las Flores, Chalatenango, El Salvador: established March 1987
  • Yerevan, Armenia: established April 1987
  • Galway, Ireland: established March 1997
  • Les Cayes, Haiti: established May 2014

Cambridge has eleven additional official sister cities which are not currently active:

  • Dublin, Ireland: October 1983
  • Ischia, Italy: June 1984
  • Catania, Italy: February 1987
  • Kraków, Poland: October 1989
  • Florence, Italy: March 1992
  • Santo Domingo Oeste, Dominican Republic: May 2003
  • Southwark, London, England: June 2004
  • Yuseong District, Daejeon, Korea: February 2005
  • Cienfuegos, Cuba: established May 2005
  • Haidian District, Beijing, China: March 2005

The Cambridge-Haiti Sister City Committee

Cambridge has most recently developed a sister city relationship with Les Cayes, Haiti. The January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti had a very real impact on Cambridge, where many people from Haiti and of Haitian descent live and work. The Cambridge-Haiti Sister City Committee was established to develop and implement a strategy to build an assets-based, sustainable, long-term, sister city relationship between Cambridge and an appropriate city in Haiti. That Committee was appointed by the City Manager in January 2011 and began working with the Peace Commission on three areas of potential support and collaboration with a sister city in Haiti:

  • Public Health: short- and long-term support for public health initiatives, infrastructure and related ongoing efforts;
  • Education and Youth: support for local efforts in Haiti, through schools and the arts, including materials, sponsorships and exchanges; and
  • Infrastructure and the Environment: providing expertise and support to enhance and create public infrastructure and help reverse environmental degradation in and around the city and the surrounding area due to deforestation.

As of November 2021, the effort continues to support an official and sustainable relationship between the two cities.

Why are there Sister Cities and how are they established?

Some Cambridge people join out of a personal connection to a city. Some join as way to become informed about another city or to affect the conditions facing that community. Some want to be a part of a delegation because it provides an interesting and very human way to learn about a place and people in another country. Some want to be part of the citizen-to-citizen exchange movement and some are eager to represent Cambridge in an official way.

In Cambridge, a group of people, usually composed primarily of residents, brings a request to connect with another community to the city government, and usually they have a direct connection to the other community. In addition: there needs to be interest in forming a relationship from the government in that community, there should be a basis for mutual connection, and there should not be other U.S. cities with a sister-city relationship to that community. Once there is demonstrated interest and support, the Cambridge City Council may vote to adopt a resolution to establish an official sister-city relationship.

In many cases, a volunteer sister city committee builds the relationship, keeps the connection active, and raises whatever funds are needed. The official nature of the relationship opens doors for receptions by city officials, exchanges with city departments and access to city institutions. At the citizen level, sister-city committees are open to all and draw from a diverse membership including educators, religious people, health workers, artists, and neighborhood residents.

The idea behind sister cities vary widely. Some are created to address an issue of injustice or solidarity. Others are expressions of friendship between two municipalities. Some have very large committees and a lot of ongoing contact with active exchanges between with delegations. Some keep a basic ongoing connection with some information available. Over many decades, the most successful efforts have been ones where the proposed sister city has preexisting economic, social, or cultural linkages with the City of Cambridge to act as a foundation for building and sustaining the long-term sister city relationship..

Sister Cities International

Cambridge is a member of Sister Cities International. As the official organization which links jurisdictions from the United States with communities worldwide, Sister Cities International is an international membership organization that recognizes, registers, and coordinates sister city, county, state, and regional linkages. For more information, visit their website at www.sister-cities.org.

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