I’m guessing the Sherman brothers didn’t have the sister cities program in mind when they wrote the Disney classic “It’s a small world” but that’s what I think of when I have the opportunity to meet people from around the globe. From July 16-18, Minneapolis will host the Sister Cities International Conference, a multi-day event bringing together engaged citizens, elected officials, diplomats and business leaders the world over. Started by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 to foster people-to-people citizen diplomacy, Sister Cities International has grown to more than 2,500 communities participating worldwide.

Minneapolis has twelve sister cities – from the first one established in 1961 in Santiago, Chile to the most recent one established last year in Bosaso, Somalia. Each chapter, such as the Minneapolis-Uppsala Friendship Committee, is an independent, volunteer run organization. Duties can include being an ambassador for Minneapolis when visitors arrive from the partnering city and celebrating a shared heritage that helps break down language barriers.

Last year, more than 500 delegates from 26 different countries descended on San Jose, California for the Sister Cities International Conference. For those not attending the conference but interested in welcoming attendees to Minneapolis, volunteer opportunities are available – simply visit this website to sign up. To wrap up this celebration of friendship, you can also attend Sister Cities Day on Sunday, July 19 from 1-5 p.m. at the Nicollet Island Pavilion. Now in its eighth year, this free event includes ethnic entertainment and cultural displays from Minneapolis’s sister cities as well as complimentary refreshments.