The first Sister City Program, Sister Cities International, was created in 1956 at the request of President Eisenhower, giving national focus to affiliations between cities in the United States and in other countries. The goal of the program is to promote deeper cultural understanding, international visitation and hospitality that leads to long lasting relationships. More recently, Sister City links have become an increasingly important conduit for economic development.
The City of Tacoma has 14 Sister Cities, all of which have aspects similar or complementary to Tacoma's economic character. Tacoma's Sister City activities are as diverse as its membership. Some examples of activities include Student Exchanges, Sports Exchanges, Performing Arts Festivals, Arts Exchanges and the International Film Festival.
Each Sister City has a citizen based Sister City Committee. The Sister City Committees are all organized under a 501 c (3) called the Sister City Council of Tacoma.