In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower initiated "People-to-People," a program designed to foster international relationships through worldwide sister city partnerships. Eisenhower hoped that citizens from around the world, working together and creating friendships, would help in the prevention of future global conflicts. Now known as "Sister Cities International," the non-profit organization partners cities to develop governmental, educational, economic, and cultural exchanges that are mutually beneficial and will ultimately sustain long-term peace.
Philadelphia established its Sister Cities Program when Florence, Italy became a partner in 1964. Since then, Philadelphia has formed Sister City relationships with Tel-Aviv, Israel (1966), Torun, Poland (1976), Tianjin, China (1980), Inchon, Korea (1984), Douala, Cameroon (1986), and Nizhny Novgrod, Russia (1992). Philadelphia has also created additional relationships through Partnership Cities that include Kobe, Japan; Aix en Provence, France; and Abruzzo, Italy.
An important component of Sister Cities International is the Young Artists Program, an art competition where students from around the world interpret annual themes such as "Celebrating Global Unity," "Peace Begins at Home," and "No Borders, No Fences, Just Friends." Locally, the art contest includes submissions by students from the School District of Philadelphia and Philadelphia's Sister Cities. Winning entries are submitted to the national competition and exhibited at the annual Sister Cities International Conference.