Local leadership: unlocking the true potential of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

By Alaa Murabit, Aziza Khabbush and Christina Myers

Far too often we associate leadership with power, status and authority. But with this narrow outlook, we often tend to forget about the leaders closest to us: local leaders. These local leaders, the people who care deeply about community issues, who implement initiatives and who shape local development, represent a huge window of opportunity for global social change. With their direct contact with communities, local leaders are uniquely positioned to push forward ideas, galvanize others and create immediate social impact. And we believe that harnessing this opportunity is key to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Local leaders are an untapped power in the global arena. A single leader can create an endless chain of social change—to meet the SDGs, we need to work closely with them. If we enable local leaders, not only can we tackle global challenges faster and more effectively, but we can create a ripple effect.

In a short period of time, the mentorship programme has inspired a new generation of young local leaders and set forth a ripple of change. However, mentorship alone is not enough. Dialogue and collaboration among young leaders and the wider public is also needed to reach the SDGs.

As part of this commitment, we’ve selected Colombia as our first target region. Despite their longstanding role in peacebuilding processes, local leaders have long been neglected by global and national policymakers alike. What stands out, though, is the diminished political and social interest in supporting these leaders, particularly after peace process negotiations fell through earlier this year. We chose Colombia because supporting local leadership is even more essential in the absence of political support. Omnis Institute aims to create a network from existing empowered local leaders in Colombia that can bring voice to their causes, add a more local perspective to a shared global platform, and push them to the forefront of national and global conversations. Colombia is only the first country in our list; we intend to create local understanding in many other parts of the world. This is, in fact, one of Omnis’s core principles: along with providing mentorship to emerging minority leaders, we must learn from and amplify the voices of local leaders in environments that lack global attention and support.

A single leader can create an endless chain of social change. A ripple effect. Now imagine what a global network of leaders could achieve.

This article was originally published on the UN Sustainable Development Goals Blog.

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