Sister Cities

What is a Sister City?

The sister city is one of the key elements of the global municipal movement, of which UCLG is the standard bearer. The global municipal movement, which reflects the “universalism” mentality that gained momentum at the end of the 19th century, aims to contribute to world peace and prosperity through cities. Sister city relations also directly serve this purpose as they strengthen feelings of unity and solidarity. However, the meaning attributed to sister-city relations has changed over time. While sister-city relations were expected in the past for the two communities to get to know each other and thus overcome their negative feelings or develop positive feelings towards each other. Nowadays, cities avoid establishing relationships or lose interest in the relationship they have established unless a win-win situation is created that will produce tangible outputs. The solution is to establish a sustainable sister-city relationship on a suitable ground from the beginning.

How to Create a Sister City Relationship?

The city that wants to establish a sister-city relationship should start by thinking about what it wants to buy from the other side and what it can give to the other side. It should not be forgotten that the sister-city relationship is a type of cooperation based on mutual benefit. Therefore, it is possible that an effort to be made without drawing the framework of cooperation, that is, determining its scope, will fail. Considering working with limited resources, a constrained scope should be determined according to priorities instead of keeping the range as wide as possible. Moreover, the lack of a clear definition of scope and objectives can result in wasted effort. And since an unequal and one-way sister city relationship is not sustainable, the “matching” of two cities with similar characteristics and close in scale will also strengthen the established relationship, apart from being able to meet on common ground.

Why Sister City Relationship Should Be Established?

Each city has its unique accumulation and power. Some cities have a historical management tradition, some cities have abundant natural resources, and some cities are lucky in terms of trained manpower. However, no city can hold all the possibilities and overcome all the problems. One might as well say that achieving a completely problem-free structure is impossible because the conditions change as time passes. Just as friends support each other in inter-individual relations, sister cities support each other in inter-city relations. In this context, a proper sister city relationship can be compared to the relationship between two peers, not between an older sibling and a younger sibling. When two cities listen to each other and tell each other about their difficulties and successes, they can be a source of inspiration for each other. Only the cities themselves can determine the limits of tangible or intangible sharing.

How Does the Process of Being a Sister City Work?

Although the cities determine the boundaries of sharing, each local government must comply with the legal regulations of the country it is located. While local governments have substantial autonomy in some countries, they are under the strict control of the central government in some countries. Whatever the case may be, a sister-city relationship cannot be established unless the requirements of national law are met. However, this can be considered a necessary but insufficient condition. First, the will of the local government leadership, which will be expressed and shared openly with all units of the local government, will be a driving force for the team. In the second stage, the assigned team should clearly define the characteristics and expectations of their city and the features they are looking for in a sister city. In the third stage, the road splits into two: Local governments either make an effort on their own or seek the support of national and international networks. The more accessible and more effective way is the second. The knowledge and experience of the networks will contribute to a successful match. Regardless of how the relationship was established, the fact that the two cities sign the paper which they promise to establish a sister city relationship means that the process begins, not concludes. Naturally, there is not exactly a “final step” in a sister city relationship.