A new synthesis report by UN-Habitat on SDG 11 monitoring includes data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) on cultural and natural heritage. Released for the High Level Political Forum taking place 13–14 July, the report focuses on trends and steps needed to make cities sustainable. Part of this includes the preservation of cultural and natural heritage, most of which exists in an urban setting. The UIS is the custodian agency for SDG Indicator 11.4.1 measuring the Total expenditure per capita spent 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).

Data collection for SDG Indicator 11.4.1

The UIS collects heritage data via an annual survey of expenditure on cultural and natural heritage first administered in June 2020. While data coverage doubled from the first survey in 2020 to the third in 2022, the number of countries reporting data for Indicator 11.4.1 remains insufficient to report global or regional figures. This indicator looks at investment at all levels of government. An increasing number of countries can report data by level of government.

The results for the 57 countries for which data are available from 2018 to 2021 show that the range of values for public expenditure on heritage for developing countries is significantly less compared to developed countries. As a result, the median public expenditure on heritage preservation for European countries reporting was 72.9 PPP$ -constant 2017 USD- per capita, compared to a median of less than 15.0$ for other regions: 12.5 PPP$ for Northern Africa and Western Asia, 10.5 PPP$ per capita for Latin America and the Caribbean, 4.6 PPP$ for Eastern and South-Eastern Asia and less than for 1.0 PPP$ for sub-Saharan Africa.

Rescuing SDG 11 for a resilient urban planet, p. 49

Of the 28 countries reporting disaggregated data for Indicator 11.4.1 by level of government between 2018 and 2021, eight noted that local governments accounted for more than half of expenditure on cultural and natural heritage. That figure is most likely an underestimate in view of the difficulty collecting data for this indicator at the municipal level. Local government expenditure in Belarus, Brazil and Ecuador represented two-thirds of the expenditure on cultural and natural heritage in those countries.

Lower spending on heritage during the pandemic

Most regions cut their expenditures on cultural and natural heritage at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the exception of Central and Southern Asia, public investment in heritage preservation decreased in 25 countries across all SDG regions in 2020 compared to 2019. While some countries took special measures to support the culture sector, others decreased their expenditure. Colombia experienced one of the greatest reductions, with a 30% decline in cultural heritage expenditure.

Additional resources:

Background information on SDG 11.4.1 statistics in the UIS database

Shaping investments to safeguard cultural and natural heritage across the world  (results of 2021 survey)

UIS survey questionnaires

UIS data on SDG Indicator 11.4.1

UIS bulk data download service