Gilbert Sister Cities

Gilbert Sister Cities is a community supported 501(c)3 organization. The idea of  Gilbert Sister Cities was formulated in June 1995 to establish cultural and economic ties with other regions of the world. Our first Sister City relationship was formed with Newtownabbey (now known as Antrim-Newtownabbey), Northern Ireland, on November 17, 1998. Our second Sister City partnership was formalized with Leshan, China on June 4, 2002. With each of these partnerships has come new programs, mission opportunities, and enriching ambassador and delegation exchanges.

Our Mission

“Gilbert Sister Cities is dedicated to promoting cultural understanding and stimulating economic development opportunities for the people, businesses, and organizations of the Town of Gilbert through mutually beneficial international programs and partnerships.”

The Sister City Concept

City affiliations between the United States and other countries became a national effort when President Eisenhower proposed the People-to-People program at a White House Conference in 1956. To date, 800 American cities representing all 50 states have affiliated with 2,600 cities in 126 countries worldwide. The program’s objective is to create goodwill and further international understanding at the community level on a continuing, long-term basis. It is not a movement to convert others to our democratic ideals, but rather a way to help learn about the people of other countries, their customs, their similarities, and differences, and help chart a better road to understanding the world.

Gilbert Sister Cities – Milestones:

In 1995, Gilbert’s then Director of Economic Development, Greg Tilque, placed an ad in the Gilbert Independent seeking individuals interested in forming a group to start a sister city program in Gilbert.  A number of individuals responded to the request and two, in particular, Andy & Beccy Hlawek, stepped in to assist and bring their experience from years of service with Tempe Sister Cities to the new organization.  In June of 1995, the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce agreed to act as the umbrella organization under which a sister city program would operate. The initial gathering of those interested in forming a sister city organization took place. On November 17, 1998, the Town of Gilbert officially signed a Sister City Partnership Agreement with Newtownabbey, Northern Ireland, formalizing the relationship. On June 4, 2002, the Town of Gilbert officially sealed a Sister City Agreement with Leshan, China.

  • June 1995 – The concept for a Gilbert Sister Cities Program is initiated.
  • January 23, 1997 – Articles of Incorporation were approved and Gilbert Sister Cities, Inc. was designated a 501(c) 3 Organization
  • July 11, 1997 – By-Laws Adopted
  • October 1997 – Transatlantic Mayoral Business and Friendship Meeting to Ireland and Northern Ireland (Sponsored by Sister Cities International)
  • November 17, 1998 – Officially signed Sister City Partnership Agreement with Newtownabbey, formalizing the relationship
  • Summer 2000 – Inaugural Student Ambassador Program with Newtownabbey, NI
  • August 2000 – Communication begins with Leshan, China to explore a potential Sister city relationship.
  • November 2000 – Exploratory visit to Leshan, China
  • June 4,  2002 – Gilbert and Leshan Mayors and Councils formalize the sister city relationship.
  • April 2005 – Arizona State University and the University of Ulster in Newtownabbey, sign an Agreement of Academic Cooperation between the Arizona Board of Regents and the University of Ulster.
  • April 23, 2005 – First ever Gilbert Global Village Festival, created by Gilbert Sister Cities, is held.
  • May 2008 – The town of Gilbert and Gilbert Sister Cities provide aid to Leshan after the devastating earthquake.
  • Summer 2010 – Inaugural Student Ambassador Program with Leshan, China
  • May 20, 2022 – Gilbert Sister Cities Friendship Garden Ribbon Cutting at Gilbert Regional Park