What is the Sister Cities Program?

Sister Cities International (SCI), a non-profit citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between U.S. and international communities, was established by President Eisenhower to improve communications, cultural, and business relations between the people of the United States and the rest of the world community.

Sister City relationships can turn nations into people and contribute as no other form of communications to the humanizing of international relations.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Why was the Houston–Galveston/Stavanger Sister City Program founded?

Houston and Stavanger formed a sister city relationship in 1980 as a result of a Norwegian Festival and strong oil and shipping industries both in Houston and in Stavanger. The strong business ties between the two cities and the significant investments made by Norwegians in commercial activities in Houston and vice versa led to strong support for the organization by business, civic, and cultural leaders. This community support helped lead to Houston being recognized as as having the best Sister City program in 1983.

During Stavanger’s visit to Houston in April 1988, Galveston took part in many of the activities and expressed a wish to join the Sister City organization. Thus, on September 26, 1988, the mayors of the three cities signed a formal document joining the cities in an educational, business, and cultural exchange program named Houston–Galveston/Stavanger Sister City Society. HGSSCS is now one of 17 Sister Cities of Houston and is also part of the Sister Cities International organization.

What is the Houston–Galveston/Stavanger Sister City Program, and why is it so successful?

Since its founding, Houston–Galveston/Stavanger Sister City Society has been actively engaged in promotion and goodwill. The primary activities have been cultural exchanges in which Houston–Galveston and Stavanger have alternated as host every other year. These youth programs — “Stavanger Days in Texas” and “Texas Days in Stavanger” — have won several awards from the national Sister City organization.

The list of schools and groups which have participated in the many exchange programs over the years is varied and long. Participating student delegations have included music, drama, and athletic groups who have performed or competed at schools and other sites. In addition to approximately 1800 participants in the youth exchange programs, there have been countless teachers, group leaders, parents, relatives, city officials, business people, board directors, sister city members and volunteers involved over the years.

What other Recognitions have been made of the ties between the three cities?

Ministers from Norway are regular visitors to Houston. Houston was selected to have a Royal Norwegian Consulate General, Norwegian Trade Council, Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce and a Norwegian Seamen’s Church. Four Houstonians have been decorated by the king of Norway, whereas one of them, Mr. Jay Medley, received one of the highest awards ever given by the king to a foreign individual. Some years ago, Houston was chosen the “Port-of-Honor” for visits by Christian Radich, a square rigged Norwegian training ship, and Saga Sieglar, a replica of a Viking trading vessel.

What Long-Term Relationships have been established?

The Society helps build long-term relationships between Houston–Galveston and Stavanger by sponsoring many activities. The organization was involved both when the late King Olav V of Norway and the present King Harald V of Norway visited Houston as well as when the Norwegian ambassador to the U.S. visited here. Additionally, the Society suggested and implemented the membership of the Stavanger Chamber of Commerce in the Greater Houston Chamber of Commerce as its first foreign member.

Tax Status:

FEDERAL:  HGSSCS holds recognition as a tax-exempt cultural and educational organization under Section 501(c) 3 of the Internal Revenue Code. For more information, see www.guidestar.org for copies of recent Form 990 tax filings.

STATE:  HGSSCS holds Texas limited sales, excise, and use tax exemptions as a nonprofit charitable and educational organization with activities and programs as described in Title 34, Part 1, Chapter 3, Subchapter O, §3.322 Exempt Organizations of the Texas Administrative Code.