In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed the people-to-people concept. President Eisenhower thought that relationships fostered in this program would lessen the possibility of future world conflicts. This concept grew and eventually led to the creation of Sister Cities International (SCI). SCI is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between U.S. and international communities in an effort to increase global cooperation at the municipal level, to promote cultural understanding and to stimulate economic development. SCI leads the movement for local community development and volunteer action by motivating and empowering private citizens, municipal officials and business leaders to conduct long-term programs of mutual benefit.

The Duluth Sister Cities Commission, established in 1986 as a City of Duluth commission broadened its scope in 2007 to become an independent non-profit 501(c)3 organization known as Duluth Sister Cities International. Today, Duluth Sister Cities International continues to expand its relationships with its four Sister Cities: Thunder Bay, Canada; Isumi-shi, Japan; Petrozavodsk, Russia and Växjö, Sweden.