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Sign denoting twin towns of Neckarsulm, Germany

Twin towns and sister cities are two of many terms used to describe the cooperative agreements between towns, cities and even counties in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties. In the United Kingdom the term twin towns is most commonly used, generally referring to town-twinning with Europe, differentiating with the term sister cities which is used for agreements with towns and cities in the United States. In Europe, a variety of terms are used; most commonly twin towns, but partnership towns, partner towns and friendship towns, are also used. Germany uses Partnerstadt (Partner Town/City), France uses Ville Jumelée (Twinned Town/City). In The Netherlands, the term Stedenband (City bond) is used. North America, South America, South Asia, Australasia and Asia generally use the term sister cities. In the former Soviet Bloc countries twin towns is used, as well as the term brother cities which is also used on occasion.[1]

Sometimes other government bodies enter into a "twinning" relationship, such as the agreement between the provinces of Hainan in China and Jeju-do in South Korea, or between Chinatown, Washington, D.C., and Beijing.

The Douzelage is a town twinning association with one town from each of the member states of the European Union.[2]



Sign showing twin towns of Pápa, Hungary.
Four twinning towns of Brzeg Dolny, Poland
Sign showing twin towns of Saint Sylvain d'Anjou, France.
Sister Cities Bridge with national flags in the Country Club Plaza district of Kansas City, Missouri
Sign showing twin towns of Epping, United Kingdom.
Los Angeles City Hall, and its signpost of Sister Cities
Banner at the Albuquerque International Sunport listing Albuquerque's sister cities

The earliest form of town twinning in Europe was between the German city of Paderborn and the French city of Le Mans in 836.[3] Keighley, West Yorkshire, England had a "sister cities" arrangement with Suresnes and Puteaux, France starting in 1905.[4][5] The first recorded modern twinning agreement was between Keighley and Poix-du-Nord, Nord, France in 1920 following the end of World War I.[5][6] This was initially referred to as an adoption of the French town, with formal twinning charters not being exchanged until 1986.[7]

The practice was continued after the Second World War as a way to bring European people into a closer understanding of each other and to promote cross-border projects of mutual benefit.[3][8][9] For example, Coventry twinned with Dresden as an act of peace and reconciliation, both cities having been heavily bombed during the war.[10] Each twin city country is represented in a specific ward of the city and in each ward has a peace garden dedicated to that twin city.[3] Another early example of town twinning dates back to 1947 when Bristol Corporation (later Bristol City Council) sent five 'leading citizens' on a goodwill mission to Hanover.

Within Europe, town twinning is supported by the European Union.[3] The support scheme was established in 1989. In 2003 an annual budget of about 12 million euros was allocated to about 1,300 projects. The Council of European Municipalities and Regions also works closely with the Commission (DG Education and Culture) to promote modern, high quality twinning initiatives and exchanges that involve all sections of the community. It has launched a website dedicated to town twinning.[11]

Many German cities still are twinned with other German cities. The partnerships were established in the last years of former East Germany. Famous examples are the partnerships of Hanover and Leipzig (both having important trade fair grounds) or between Hamburg and Dresden.

North America

The first city in North America to establish a sister city relationship was Toledo, Ohio, United States, with Toledo, Spain in 1931. Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada was also a notable city to enter into an intercontinental twinning arrangement when, in 1944, it twinned with the Ukrainian city of Odessa, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union. This was based on aiding the allied port city during the Second World War. Tashkent, an Uzbek city, then part of the Soviet Union, was twinned with Seattle, Washington in 1973 and became the first Soviet city to be twinned with one in the US. Another first for town twinning occurred in 1967 when Rochester, Minnesota and Knebworth, UK teamed up to bring a primary medical research front.

The American sister cities program was initiated in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower. It was originally administered as part of the National League of Cities, but since 1967 it has been a separate organization, Sister Cities International (SCI), which is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between U.S. and international communities in an effort to increase global cooperation at the municipal level, to promote cultural understanding and to stimulate private business and economic development. SCI leads the movement for local community development and volunteer action by motivating and empowering private citizens, municipal officials and business leaders to conduct long-term programs of mutual benefit.[12]

Other meanings

The phrase "sister cities" is sometimes used to refer to cities without a formal agreement which have similar cultures and/or historical background, such as Galveston, Texas and New Orleans, two cities that were historically major Southern ports on the Gulf coast. Another example is Charleston, South Carolina and Boston[citation needed].


The concept of sister cities has been criticized as an unnecessary and expensive endeavor[13] for cities to take part in with little to no accountability or obvious signs of economic development resulting from the arrangement. Critics complain that politicians can use the sister cities as an excuse to take junkets.[14]

See also




  1. ^ "Tbilisi, Vilnius become brother cities". Trend News Agency. Retrieved 2009-10-12. 
  2. ^ " Home". Retrieved 2009-10-21. 
  3. ^ a b c d "The Origins of Town Twinning". Inverness: The City of Inverness Town Twinning Committee. 8 December 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  4. ^ Frank Crane. War and World Government. p. 200. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  5. ^ a b "France Magazine - Twin Towns". Retrieved 2009-11-06. 
  6. ^ Handley, Susan (2006). Take your partners: The local authority handbook on international partnerships. London: Local Government International Bureau. p. 4. Retrieved 2009-09-20. 
  7. ^ "Keighley celebrates twin town jubilee". Telegraph & Argus. Newsquest Media Group. 2002. Retrieved 2009-01-05. 
  8. ^ " - Twinning". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  9. ^ "Twin Towns". Retrieved 2009-10-29. 
  10. ^ "Disney seeks UK twin". Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  11. ^ "Twinnings". Retrieved 2009-06-16. 
  12. ^ "History of Sister Cities International - History". Archived from the original on 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2009-05-10. 
  13. ^ ANNA M. TINSLEY (Wednesday, Sep. 16, 2009). "Critics question whether council members should take Sister Cities trip in lean budget times". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. 
  14. ^ BRENT D. WISTROM (Wed, Sep. 16, 2009). "Mayor defends Council member's planned trip to Paris". The Wichita Eagle. 

External links

Simple English

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