One of the effects of the Covid-19 crisis has been the literal and metaphorical drawing up of bridges around the world as nations focus on their own responses to the pandemic. Levels of lockdown, testing, social distancing and economic stimulus packages have all differed country to country. Some evidence of international co-operation or co-ordination does exist, especially in the sharing of scientific knowledge about the virus itself, but the overall picture remains one of national self-interest taking priority.   

In times such as these, the UN has a unique and crucial role to play in promoting a wider, global perspective in regard to both the Covid-19 crisis and to the issues which will remain long after the virus has been controlled. In its efforts to ensure this happens the UN has now gone virtual, with committees and assemblies still working together, even when they are forced to work apart. The landmark, high-level 75th General Assembly in September is still going ahead as a virtual event and will not be shifted to a future date - and here at Water Unite we welcome that decision. 

Virtual or not, the General Assembly is a vital platform for collaboration, innovation and coordination. The 2020 event also marks SDG +5 - five years since the world changing Sustainable Development Goals were set - and it is an important opportunity to review progress so far and how it can be maintained after such a significant global shock. For us, it represents an unmissable opportunity for nations, NGOs and commerce to consider innovative, sustainable and circular approaches to finance and funding that will fill the inevitable gaps now appearing. 

Financing the future

The Water Unite approach is one that perfectly fits these criteria. The basis of our fundraising model is a voluntary micro-levy of 1 cent from the sale of every 1 litre of bottled water from our retail partners. The funds raised are leveraged via an investment vehicle and by further investments from governments, NGOs and the private sector - meaning contributions can be multiplied many times over. The fund then invests in WASH and Plastic Pollution Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) through a combination of loans, equity or quasi-equity. These investments provide catalytic capital that drives innovation and helps communities tackle specific challenges at scale in a sustainable, long-term fashion.

At heart this is an achievable, effective, scalable and above all empowering route to tackling not just Water Poverty and Plastic Pollution but also good health and wellbeing, decent work and economic growth. That’s something that should be high on the agenda within the UN and at its General Assembly in September. It’s also why Water Unite will be making our virtual presence felt too, hosting a virtual conference where representatives from the UN,, commerce and NGOs can come together and discuss how investment model’s like ours can be a game-changer in the financing and realisation of the SDGs post Covid-19. 

Helping SDGs weather the Covid-19 crisis

The Covid-19 crisis has already highlighted the importance of particular SDGs, such as Goal 6 calling for clean water and sanitation for all people. In a world where we are all encouraged to wash our hands regularly with soap and water, what do you do when that water is not readily available?  But every SDG will feel the effect. Already Goal 3 of Good Health and Wellbeing, Goal 4 of Quality Education and Goal 8 of Decent Work and Economic Growth are being severely affected by the pandemic, and the global economic downturn will also mean that the funding and investment needed to achieve every SDG will be more difficult to find.(1)

Against this backdrop it is heartening to see that the diverse bodies and organisations within the UN are stepping up to keep focused on key objectives. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has recently stated that “The United Nations – and our global network of country offices – will support all Governments to ensure that the global economy and the people we serve emerge stronger from the crisis.”(2)

It may even prove that the UN emerges from the crisis as an even stronger force for good in a world where it’s not just economies that have changed, it is the outlook of millions of people who have become aware of just how interconnected the world is. The organisation’s Department of Global Communications has already called the pandemic; “an opportunity for the human family to act in solidarity” to achieve the SDGs, and we hope that the General Assembly this September will give Water Unite the opportunity to demonstrate how this can be done.(3)

For more information about our upcoming event, or to register, please contact unite@waterunite.org 


(1) https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-pandemic-effect-sdg-un-progress/

(2) https://unu.edu/news/news/un-secretary-general-covid-19-pandemic-calls-for-coordinated-action-solidarity-and-hope.html

(3) https://www.un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/un-working-fight-covid-19-and-achieve-global-goals