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UNESCO Institute of Statistics releases data and key findings on cultural and natural heritage expenditure

UNESCO Institute of Statistics releases data and key findings on cultural and natural heritage expenditure

Goal 11:                            Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Target 11.4:                      Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage

Indicator 11.4.1:              Total per capita expenditure on the preservation, protection and conservation of all cultural and natural heritage, by source of funding (public, private), type of heritage (cultural, natural) and level of government (national, regional and local/municipal).

Heritage and Education - The linkages between SDGs

Protecting cultural heritage includes not only the preservation and restoration of historic buildings, but also contemporary reserves, ecosystems, and even socio-cultural activities with benefits for education as well as employment (e.g. tourism). Cultural and natural heritage sites are invaluable and irreplaceable educational institutions which provide tangible experiences from the past and present on social and/or environmental norms. In that sense, cultural and natural heritage sites provide learning grounds for Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship (SDG 4.7) to explore the historic development of societies and changes in environments as well as the need for the protection of lived diversity in human and natural relations. It is crucial, therefore, to track investment in cultural heritage over time looking at both public and private expenditure.

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has released the second set of data for Indicator 11.4.1 related to culture for the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Agenda 2030. Based on this data, the UIS has published “Shaping investments to safeguard cultural and natural heritage across the world”, which highlights the wide gaps in investment, both globally and regionally, and how private expenditure on preservation is lagging behind, often greatly, public expenditure.

45 countries (22% response rate) participated in the survey in 2021, of which 41 countries provided robust enough data for analysis. This was an increase from only 31 countries in the 2020 survey. The data reveals that the medium per capita national public and private combined expenditure on cultural heritage in 2020-2021 was 89.1 $PPP but that the range of investment was large.

The impact of COVID-19 on public investment

The COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the culture sector and for heritage preservation more specifically. At the height of the pandemic in 2020, 95% of the world’s museums and 90% of world heritage sites were closed resulting in a 60% drop in visitors to the world heritage sites, and a 52% drop in income from admission fees. The pandemic also negatively affected 78% of communities living in and around world heritage sites, too.

Data, provided by 25 countries, reveals contrasting patterns on public investment in heritage as a result of the impact of COVID-19. Between 2018 and 2019, for the majority of countries, public investments in heritage preservation remained stable or increased slightly, but in 2020 large discrepancies formed. Some countries, such as Japan, invested in cultural preservation to protect the sector whilst others, such the Republic of Korea, decreased their investment.