SDG Target 11.4 calls on countries to “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard cultural and natural heritage.” The SDG Indicator 11.4.1, developed by the UIS, is defined as 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). This indicator is part of global efforts to gauge the overall magnitude of investment in heritage.

In December 2019, the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) upgraded indicator 11.4.1 to Tier 2 status, confirming that the indicator is conceptually sound and has an internationally established methodology as standards are in place to clearly guide its measurement. Following the upgrade, the UIS is now launching the first-ever global survey to capture how governments and private contributors invest in preserving the rich history that has helped shape us as individuals as well as our communities.

Heritage is an important economic driver. Prior to the current travel restrictions and closure of heritage sites due to COVID-19, people travelled the world to visit museums, view cave paintings and explore history through archaeological sites. In the midst of the current pandemic, the Culture Sector has been hard hit as funding along with the livelihoods of many artists and communities have been jeopardized – and yet, it undeniable plays an important role in COVID-19 response efforts. Post-pandemic, just as nations strive to rebuild their economies, cultural heritage will once again play an integral part of economic recovery as heritage sites begin to reopen. 

Although it is not possible to measure the value of the world’s monuments and natural vistas in purely monetary terms, Indicator 11.4.1 can help us calculate how much countries invest in preserving the legacies of human culture and conserving their natural vistas. The questionnaires and survey manuals are available in English, French and Spanish (see Related links box on right).