Sister Cities International (SCI) was created at President Eisenhower’s 1956 White House conference on citizen diplomacy. Eisenhower envisioned an organization that could be the hub of global peace and prosperity by creating bonds between people from different cities around the world. In forming these relationships, people of different cultures could celebrate and appreciate their differences and build partnerships that would lessen the chance of new conflicts.
The City of Long Beach joined SCI in 1963 and established a Sister City partnership with Yokkaichi, Japan. This relationship continues today, uninterrupted, making it the oldest Sister City relationship of Long Beach.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Yokkaichi was joined by Qingdao, China; Sochi, Russia; and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In 2007, Mombasa, Kenya was added as currently the youngest Sister City relationship of Long Beach. During the years between 1963 and 2007, a variety of other cities around the globe pursued establishing Sister City relationships with Long Beach. Often facing diplomatic challenges and international tensions, some were successful, some were not. All were short-lived.
In 1995, due to the increasing administrative requirements of managing multiple Sister City partnerships, the City of Long Beach sponsored the establishment of a public nonprofit organization, Sister Cities of Long Beach, Inc. This 501c3 tax-exempt organization manages the administrative and legal requirements of the Sister City program. Each Sister City partnership is fueled by an autonomous committee of volunteers pursuing the initiatives, programs and projects that are important to them and their global partner.
In 2012, SCI established a category of ‘‘Friendship Cities”, a short term, less formal and often more focused relationship formed to advance a singular agenda or to accomplish a specific purpose. Friendship Cities are also formed to “test the waters” before long-term Sister City relationships are established. Long Beach has three Friendship Cities: Bacolod, Phillippines; Rosarito Beach, Mexico and Venice Italy.