Sister Cities Conference

A 3-day interactive event bringing together representatives from 20+ sister cities to discuss their partnership goals, successes, and aspirations to cross-pollinate ideas and forge a connection.

This event is free and open to all community members interested in learning more about Cleveland’s international connections from a ground-level perspective.

We will have representatives from our Sister Cities engaging with community members, business leaders, students, and civic leaders. The host committee of the Sister Cities Conference will be on hand to speak about the city-city relationship, past accomplishments, and goals for the future.

Benefits of a Sister City: Direct contact with local businesses, civic leaders, and educational institutions around the world. Increased cooperation, respect, and hence prosperity for both cities and their people.


Date: September 29th – October 2, 2020 

Place: Virtual Event through Hopin hosted by the Cleveland Public Library

Global Cleveland’s Sister Cities Conference is a free, virtual, and open to the public around the globe who are interested in learning more about Cleveland’s international connections from a ground-level perspective. We will have representatives from Cleveland and our Sister Cities engaging together with community members, business leaders, students, and civic leaders. A 3-day interactive event bringing together representatives from 24 sister cities to discuss their partnership goals, successes, and aspirations to cross-pollinate ideas and forge connections.

Mission: To enhance our economic, social, and cultural prosperity through enriching global partnerships.

Vision: To have a local-global network of businesses, educational institutions, organizations, and local governments connected to Cleveland to internationalize our city and create a global citizenry.

Our Sister Cities

  • Alexandria, Egypt
  • Bahir-Dar, Ethiopia
  • Bangalore, India
  • Beit She’an, Israel
  • Brasov, Romania
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Cleveland, United Kingdom
  • Conakry, Guinea
  • Fier, Albania
  • Gdansk, Poland
  • Heidenheim, Germany
  • Holon, Israel
  • Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Klaipeda, Lithuania
  • Lima, Perú
  • West Mayo, Ireland
  • Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Miskolc, Hungary
  • Rouen, France
  • Segundo Montes, El Salvador
  • Taipei City, Taiwan
  • Vicenza, Italy
  • Volgograd, Russia

What is a Sister City?

According to Sister City International (SCI), a sister city, county, or state relationship is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries. A relationship is officially recognized after the highest elected or appointed official from both communities sign off on an agreement to become sister cities.

Learn More

Tuesday September 29

Opening Day

Keynote Speakers:

  • Director Felton Thomas, Cleveland Public Library Director
  • Ambassador Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States
  • Council President Kevin Kelley, Cleveland City Council President
  • Ted Carter, Cuyahoga County’s Chief Economic Development and Business Officer
  • Nizar Zein, Cleveland Clinic Director of Global Patient Services
  • Ronn Richard, Cleveland Foundation President
  • Fernando Gonzalez Saiffe, Consul General of Mexico in Chicago
  • Director-General Eric Huang, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago

Presentation of Chinese 150th Immigration Anniversary Proclamation

  • Cleveland City Councilman, Basheer Jones
  • City of Cleveland Government and International Affairs Manager, Alex Lackey
  • President of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Society, Mr. Jason Lin

Presentation of Mexican 100th Immigration Anniversary Proclamation 

  • Cleveland City Councilwoman, Jasmin Santana
  • City of Cleveland Government and International Affairs Manager, Alex Lackey
  • President of the Comité Mexicano of Cleveland, Mr. Rey Esparza

Musical Presentations by:

  • Award-winning Mexican harpist, César Secundino
  • Taiwanese-American pianist, Shulamite Konopinski

Wednesday September 30

Municipal/Civic Leadership Day

This panel is an opportunity for mayors and/or mayoral staff or representatives from all of our sister cities and partner cities around the world to gather on one call in one place, at the same time. Never have we been able to gather so easily across time and space. Never has a global pandemic occurred where the need for us to connect is greater. Please join this call of international friendship and global goodwill as we work together to make our bonds stronger.
  • City of Cleveland Government and International Affairs Manager, Alex Lackey
  • Deputy Mayor Mr. Dejan Crnek- Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Chief Bayo Oyero, Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Mayor Jackie Levy, Beit She’an, Israel
  • Mayor Yoram Karin-Valley of the Springs, Israel
  • Managing Director of International Relations, Leonardo De Marzo- Vicenza, Italy
  • Mayor Vytautas Grubliauskas- Klaipeda, Lithuania
  • Mayor, Pál Veres – Miskolc, Hungary
This panel is an opportunity to hear from health experts in several of our sister cities to address the global pandemic of the Novel Coronavirus. We will discuss the challenges presented by the virus and the best practices in local responses worldwide. Topics include how we borrow one another’s best practices.
  • Moderator: Prakesh Ganesh, Neighborhood Family Practice/CWRU School of Medicine
  • Matthias Bock, Merano Hospital, South Tyrol, Italy
  • Daniel Lu, Taipei Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan
  • Loubet, Interpreter HJ Hospital, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Cogo
Fresh water continues to be a challenge for people across the globe-either in terms of access or safety. This health equity problem will be discussed by experts leading change in several of our sister cities. With Cleveland sitting on one of the largest networks of fresh in the world, this session will show how cities that are water-rich and water-poor are making a future for their residents.
  • Moderator: Erin Huber Rosen, Drink Local, Drink Tap
  •  Assefa Mehretu- Professor Emeritus of Geography, Michigan State University
  •  Katie Spotz, Endurance athlete, Ambassador, Author
  •  Alex Margevicus- Commissioner, Cleveland Water
  •  Tzion Deko-Advisor for Crops in the Research and Development Unit of the Beit She’an Valley Regional Council
This panel will discuss local sustainable urban practices from the perspective of municipal leaders and the role of public/private partnerships in developing strong city-level sustainability policies. From conversations around the Paris Climate Agreement to how cities are managing their renewable resources, this session will highlight our shared need to fight global warming.
  • Moderator: Dr. Sandra Kaufman, Director, Master of Arts in Environmental Studies Program at Cleveland State University
  • Morgan Taggart, Director, The FARE Cleveland
  • Patrick Kearns, President, Refugee Response
  • Dobrica Velelinovic, MMF, Don’t Let Belgrade D(r)own
  • Kristin Hall, Director of Sustainability, City of Cleveland
  • Ivan Stanic, Head of the Department of spatial planning, City of Ljubljana, Slovenia
This panel features distinguished speakers from across the world to discuss the most relevant topics of the day relating to the health and wellbeing of civil society worldwide. Panelists will discuss their efforts to ensure the rights of minorities, women, and those marginalized by ultra-nationalist tendencies. Included in this discussion will be steps taken to ensure a welcoming, healthy, safe and thriving national climate for each person.
  • Dean Lee Fisher, Dean of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law
  • Natacha Kazatchkine, Head of Team, Internal EU Policy, Open Society Foundation
  • Iva Lazarova, Open Data Program Director, Institute for Public Environment Development, Bulgaria
  • Khizr Khan, Gold Star Father and Constitutional Attorney
  • Sanjiv Kapur, Partner, Jones Day
  • Alfiaz Viaya, Marshall Memorial Leadership Fellowship
As the sustainable energy movement continues to grow and diversify across the world, we will discuss projects in several of our sister cities and how to broaden the use of renewable energy from wind to solar, from the abandonment of fossil fuels to the development of future renewable resources, leaders from around the globe will share their maps.
  • Moderator: Stephen Love- Program Manager, Environmental Initiatives, Cleveland Foundation
  • Dave Karpinski, President, LEEDCo
  • Sisay Asefa, Professor Emeritus, Western Michigan University
  • Jason Wood, Chief of Sustainability, City of Cleveland
  • Emma Tinker, Co-founder and CIO, Asper Investment Management
  • Morgan Babbs, Chief Innovation Officer, IluMexico
Healthy and viable communities depend on varied and flexible transit systems. This panel will examine different applications of transit models from urban centers across the globe to discuss best practices through a solution-based approach.
  • Moderator: Matt Zone- Cleveland City Councilman
  • Justin Bibb, Chief Strategy Officer, Urbanova/RTA Board of Directors
  • Jacob VanSickle, Executive Director, Bike Cleveland
  • Matic Sopotnik, Director, Department of Commercial Activities and Transport, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Anne Tillie, Policy Analyst, Cleveland City Council
  • Rick Harnish, Executive Director, Midwest HSRA
  • Robert Kennedy, Director, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
This panel will discuss the cross-sector realities of migration in Northeast Ohio. It will feature government, business, non-profit, and healthcare experts from reps from the refugee community, to our strong international students, and human resources representatives.
  • Moderator: Brian Hall, Senior Vice President, Executive Director Greater Cleveland Partnership Equity and Inclusion
  • Abby Bruell, Cleveland Field Officer Director, USCRI
  • Joann Szczotka, USCIS Community Relations Officer
  • David Leopold, Chair Immigration Practice Group, Ulmer & Berne LLP
  • Scott Simmons, Senior Director, Professional Staff Affairs, Cleveland Clinic Cleveland Clinic
  • Marcello Fantoni, Associate Provost, Office of Global Education, Kent State University
This panel will talk about the unique Cleveland cultural expression of pride and love that are the Cultural Gardens. We will hear from established gardens, new gardens, and developing gardens, about makes them so special. Learn how a cultural garden is established and explore ways to utilize them even more in celebration of our community both local and international.
  • Moderator: Lori Ashyk – Director of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens
  • Alex Lackey, City of Cleveland
  • Richard Sarosi, Hungarian Garden, Veteran Garden
  • Aklilu Demessie, Ethiopian Garden, Newly Designated Garden
  • Azam Ashrab, Uzbekistan Garden, Garden in Development

Thursday, October 1st


The Society of Jesus founded a half-millennium ago, operates one of the world’s broadest, deepest, and most respected educational system in global history. In addition, the mission of this Order is to make the world a more just, equitable, and compassionate place. Join us as we hear from Jesuit leaders across four continents of how this movement can transcend border, creed, and ideology for a better planet for everyone.
  • Moderator: Mark Owens, RelateCare
  • Father Morelli Muller, Peru Colegio de la Inmaculada
  • Lima Fr. Jiju Kevillil, St. Xavier’s College – Nepal
  • Jim Brennan, St. Ignatius High School – Cleveland
  • Philip Metres – John Carroll University
  • Jean Baptiste Ganza – Rwanda
  • Michael Lee – Taipei Fu Jen Catholic University
  • Santos Rugel, Peru Colegio de la Inmaculada – Lima
  • Axel Yoskikata, Colegio de la Inmaculada – Lima
This panel pairs high schools in sister cities and Cleveland area high schools to present group-based projects on topics such as climate change and race relations. This discussion will prove the best ideas come from the most open minds. All ages welcome.
  • Bridgette Nadzam, Kasubick University, School Administrator
  • Suzanne Genillier, Shaker Heights, French Teacher
  • Toussaint Miller, University School Student
  • Karson Baldwin, University School Student
  • Nicholas Kuhar, St. Ed Student Advisor
  • Kieron Cindric, University School, French Teacher
  • Charlie Strachan, University School Student
  • Elena Parabuchaya, Liseum NO. 9 Student Advisor
  • Albana Janaq Kilica – Fier, Albania Student Advisor
  • María José Pineda Garín, Prepa – Tec Student Advisor
  • Alondra Pachecho, University School, Spanish Teacher
Please join our sister universities for a discussion about global studies, partner programs, and the role of higher education in increasing prosperity. Northeast Ohio has roughly one-third of all international students in Ohio out of more than 37,000. Those students spend over 1.3 billion annually and support over 14,000 jobs. For every 7 international students, three jobs are created.
  • Moderator: Dr. David Flesher, Vice Provost of International Affairs at Case Western Reserve University
  • George Dionne, Autonomous University of Puebla/CWRU, Puebla, Mexico
  • Holcomb, Cleveland State University
  • Elena Parabuchaya f/u, Volgograd State University, Volgograd, Russia
  • Luis Gutiérrez Aladro, TecMilenio, Monterrey, Mexico
  • Luka Zibelnik, University of Ljubljana and Cleveland State University
  • Ken Schneck, Baldwin Wallace University
  • Our American Dream is written by Fiona McEntee, an award-winning nationally recognized immigration lawyer. As an immigrant, mom of two young children, and a lawyer who fights for justice every day, Fiona wrote Our American Dream to help explain the importance of a diverse and welcoming America.
  • Curly Hair Adventures, by Ladosha Wright, owner of The Reverence Design Team Hair Salon in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, focuses on the most difficult question young girls of all ethnicities want answered: “What can I do to manage my hair and how can I continue to take care of it?” An adventure story about cultures and children around the world.
This panel will showcase the members of the diplomatic corps and foreign service to speak to young people interested in international careers to inspire the spirit of service and internationalism of tomorrow’s leaders.
  • Moderator: Megan Wilson, Chief of Staff, Cleveland Foundation
  • Ambassador Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to the United States
  • Alenka Jerak, Consul General of the Republic of Slovenia in Cleveland
  • Kevin Byrne, Consul General of Ireland in Chicago
  • Ingrida Bublys, Honorary General Consul of the Republic of Lithuania for the states of Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky
  • Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, Retired United States Ambassador
Join Cleveland Public Library and the National and University Library of Slovenian as they sign a Memorandum of Understanding, then join in a groundbreaking discussion about shared learning and resources across the planet through shared library systems.
  • Moderator: Mr. Felton Thomas, Cleveland Public Library Director
  • Austin Vaughan, Mayo County Library, Mayo, Ireland
  • José Javier Villarreal, Biblioteca Capilla Alfonsina, Nuevo Leon, Mexico
  • Peggy Nzomo, Kent State University
  • Viljem Leban, National and University Library, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Award-winning poet Safia Elhillo will be Joined by acclaimed poets Phil Metres, Stephanie Ginese, Noor Hindi, and Geramee Hensley as they share about their own hyphenated existences. Daniel Gray-Kontar of Twelve Literary Arts will lead this exploration of the many Americas that make up our country.

Namwali Serpell mesmerized readers with an epic set in Zambia that explores the transmission of modern history. It won the Los Angeles Times book prize for first fiction, the Windham Campbell Prize, and an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award. Serpell, a professor of English at Harvard University, will discuss art, Afrofuturism, and her skillful navigation of Zambia’s history, society, and politics in this groundbreaking work. In conversation with Professor Chisomo Selemani of Baldwin Wallace University.

Friday, October 2nd

Business and Economic Development

Recognizing that the world is different and markets already are, also being cognizant that this disease is global; what are things that we can do to be more prepared to end the pandemic and come out economically stronger and how can we use our city-to-city connections to do it?
  • Moderator: Mindy McLaughlin- Global Business Development TeamNEO
  • Terry Szmagala- Senior Vice President, Public & Community Affairs and Corporate Communications for Eaton
  • Danny Sebright-President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council
  • Ansir Junaid- Chairman of SupplySide Group
  • Sudhir Achar- CEO EOX Vantage
  • Emery Rubagenga- CEO ROKA Global Resources & Chairman of Sager Ganza Microfinance
  • Bruce Lowe- Partner, Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
This panel is showcasing innovative solutions to diverse health care challenges from racial equity of service to infant mortality and more. Meet leaders who are changing the face of healthcare now.
  • Rabbani, CEO, Childlife Foundation
  • Chisomo Selamani, Associate Professor, Baldwin Wallace University
  • Rasheeda Larkin, Program Manager – Government & Community Relations at Cleveland Clinic
  • Mati Gill, Senior Director, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries
  • Andrej Pantar, Director of sales 24alife at Mikropis USA LLC
Tech continues to be either a unifying or divisive factor in society. Clearly, advances have been made as a result of our tech advances, but it is important that as we make these strides the people, languages, cultures, and nations behind these advancements are recognized and honored. Hear from tech entrepreneurs and experts on ways in which tech can more fully embody the spirit of sister cities.
  • Moderator: Leon Wilson, Chief of Digital Innovation & Chief Information Officer, Cleveland Foundation
  • Marina Jackman, Time2Talk Founder
  • Sunny Nixon, VP of Legal and Compliance at OMNY
  • Kate Volzer, Co-Founder & CEO at Wisr
  • Debby Edelsteinco, Founder & Joint MD of QualityLife Company
This panel is to discuss the economic benefit of the presence of a port, how to grow the port’s footprint, and their role during the pandemic in international trade.
  • Moderator: Ms. Christine Nelson, Vice Presiden, TeamNEO
  • Ziga Fiser, Head of Strategic Development at Port of Koper
  • Will Friedman, President and CEO of the Port of Cleveland
  • Vytautas Grubliauskas, Mayor of Klaipeda, Lithuania
  • Kim Kirkendall, Founder at International Resource Development
  • John Senese, President & CEO at ChemJays LLC
Hear from newcomer entrepreneurs discuss opening a business as an immigrant and how to make the entrepreneurial environment more conducive and available for immigrant startups.
  • Moderator: Mr. Michael Jeans- President and CEO, Growth Opportunity Partners
  • Nar Pradhan- Himalayan Restaurant and Program Coordinator at Asian Services In Action
  • Hari Dahal- Founder, Nebham Software/IT Company
  • Becky Trout- Founder and President, Butterpear
This panel discusses the role of a downtown in the stability and health of any city with city representatives from successful urban cores around the globe. Learn what makes a downtown thrive, and by extension, a community.
  • Joe Marinucci, President of Downtown Cleveland Alliance
  • Janja Romih Kulenovic, Head of Sales Promotion Department, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Martín Yeza, Mayor of Pinamar, Argentina

Ilya Kaminsky reached a global audience with the publication of “Deaf Republic;” the BBC named him “one of the 12 artists that changed the world in 2019.” Kaminsky, winner of an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award this year, will discuss his art, his heritage, and his insight that disabilities can be “a political position for advocacy for us all.” In conversation with Alexandria M. Romanovich of Cuyahoga Community College.

This panel will demonstrate different incubator models around the world that showcase the many ways of pursuing economic growth through entrepreneurship and mentorship.
  • Moderator: Mike Maczuzak, CEO & Founder, SmartShape Design
  • Cathy Belk, President at JumpStart Inc.
  • Aristarco Cortés, Director of Instituto de Diseño e Innovación Tecnológica (IDIT), Puebla, Mexico
  • Julianne Roseman, Ventures Associate, Plug and Play Tech Center
  • Lukonga Lindunda, Co-Founder and Executive Director, BongoHive Technology and Innovation Hub, Lusaka, Zambia
  • Kelechi Victor Ofoegbu, Chief Operations Officer, Impact Hub Accra, Accra, Ghana
Ohio alone does $11 billion in trade with Mexico, second only to Ohio’s trade with Canada. Join a panel discussion about the diversity of trade with Mexico in Northeast Ohio. Rocky River, Ohio, and Patzcuaro, Michoacán, Mexico have been sister cities since 1965. How can we use this relationship and others to increase the trade back and forth between our regions?
  • Moderator: Ms. Andrea Villalon, Comité Mexicano of Cleveland
  • Jorge Luis Torres, President of FedEx Express en México. President American Chamber of Mexico
  • Christian Clay Mendoza, Deputy Consul and Trade Commissioner at the Mexican Consulate in Detroit
  • Roberto Russildi, Government of Nuevo Leon-Secretary of Economy
  • Nate Ward, Director and Trade Advisor Ohio SBDC Export Assistance Network, Cleveland State University
  • Judge Dan Polster of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio will lead a ceremony welcoming 30 new Americans
  • Musical performance by internationally acclaimed percussionist, Eusebio Sánchez
  • Closing remarks by Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland.

Sponsorship Opportunities

Conference Sponsor $10,000

  • Opportunity to lead/participate in a break-out panel
  • Name included in all advance and post-Conference publicity
  • Special recognition during Welcoming and at the end of the Conference
  • Speaking opportunity during Welcoming
  • Logo on Sister Cities page on the website, in digital communication, Conference materials, and webinar background
  • Your company included in select social media promotions
  • Exclusive Conference Sponsor

Global Partner $5,000

  • Opportunity to lead/participate in a break-out panel
  • Speaking opportunity during Conference
  • Special recognition during Welcoming and at the end of the Conference
  • Logo on Sister Cities page on the website and in pre-conference digital communication
  • Your company included in select social media promotions

International Connector $2,500

  • Speaking opportunity during Conference
  • Special recognition during Welcoming and at the end of the Conference
  • Logo on Sister Cities page on the website and in pre-Conference digital communication
  • Your company included in select social media promotions

Program Partner $1,000

  • Special recognition during Welcoming and at the end of the Conference
  • Logo on Sister Cities page on the website and in pre-Conference digital communication
  • Your company included in select social media promotions

Conference Supporter $500

  • Special recognition during Welcoming and at the end of the Conference
  • Logo on Sister Cities page on the website and in pre-Conference digital communication


Sponsorship Form