A Message from the Chairman

Ron Nirenberg

Ron NirenbergDear Friends:

Amidst an unprecedented global health and economic crisis, unyielding solidarity and hope are essential for us to successfully navigate this extraordinarily difficult environment. Humanity has not experienced such systematic disruption across every continent at any time in recent history.

Almost every major urban and rural population center has been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 virus, an invisible adversary that knows no borders and threatens our public health systems as well as our social and economic networks.

In this global era, our responsibility rests in protecting human health while reinforcing the bridges we have built between communities of many nations. We must be committed to a future of progress and global solidarity.

In this short time, we have witnessed several innovations, some of which have been taken as best practices from other communities around the world. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network for example, in which San Antonio participates, has convened its member cities to share best practices on various themes and facilitate the empowerment of communities to take actions that have worked elsewhere.

As the hub for institutional knowledge and best practices in the field of citizen diplomacy, we too should be doing the same in our network, highlighting stories of cooperation and shared learning among our many sister cities.

We have read stories of sister cities in China and the U.S. helping each other during this time.  My own city is an example. Members of our local community came together to assist our sister city Wuxi by raising funds to purchase needed supplies.

Now, our sister city has turned around and offered assistance to our community pledging a shipment of more than 30,000 masks.  These acts of compassionate exchange have been important symbols reinforcing the reality of our common experience.

As the Mayor of San Antonio, I have seen COVID-19’s devastating impact firsthand.  On Feb 1, I made my first public statement about the virus. Since then, I have had to issue five emergency declarations and an amendment to facilitate effective management of resources and ensure an efficient response to the impact of the virus in our community.

Critical coordination and strategic communication are pivotal in the effort to flatten the curve and eradicate this disease.  Other mayors around the world, from communities small and large, are dealing with the same issues.  We share the same concern for the welfare of our residents and first responders. We are dealing with the unintended consequences of social distancing, which has disrupted our workforce and local economies as well as our educational delivery systems.

Sister Cities International unites tens of thousands of citizen diplomats and volunteers in more than 140 countries. I call upon each of you to rise to the occasion and engage and communicate.  Even if we are practicing social distancing, this does not mean we should practice isolationism. Together, our global community will get through this.

Our work in the sister cities network is more important than ever. Let’s reinforce our values and mission to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time. And may the bridges we build remain open and everlasting.

Ron Nirenberg
Chairman of Sister Cities International
Mayor of San Antonio, Texas