Disruption and Resilience: UNESCO Reports Reveal New Data on the Impact of COVID-19 on Culture

Main Disruption and Resilience poster image © UNESCO Bangkok Office

UNESCO is launching a series of reports that reveal the scope of the impact of COVID-19 on the culture sector.

The pandemic is disrupting lives, communities, and businesses around the world, and has deeply impacted the entire cultural ecosystem. At the same time, the crisis has further revealed the important role of culture as a major resource for resilience, connection, and recovery.

The series of reports, based on recent surveys and research, provides revealing snapshots across five areas: World Heritage, living heritage, cultural and creative industries, museums, and cities.

World Heritage in the Face of COVID-19 shines light on the impact of site closures on local communities and highlights key challenges brought about by the pandemic. The report notes that, at the height of the crisis, 90 percent of countries were forced to close or partially close their World Heritage sites. In 2020, a 66 percent drop in site visitations and a 52 percent decline in revenues at surveyed sites were reported. Some 13 percent of sites surveyed noted that staff have been laid off because of COVID-19, with an average of 40 percent of permanent staff and 53 percent of temporary staff made redundant.

Living Heritage in the Face of COVID-19 highlights the impact of the pandemic on the ability of communities to engage in and transmit their living heritage, but also the way communities turned to living heritage as a source of solace and resilience. The report suggests three broad areas of action for post-pandemic recovery plans. First, it will be important to strengthen direct support mechanisms to living heritage bearers. Second, opportunities offered by digital technologies to support resilience and safeguarding and to increase the visibility and recognition of living heritage must be leveraged. Finally, the integration of living heritage safeguarding into emergency preparedness, response, and recovery plans should be intensified.

Cultural and Creative Industries in the Face of COVID-19: an Economic Impact Outlook shows that the cultural and creative industries have fared consistently worse than national economies overall. It is estimated that they contracted by US$750 billion in gross value added in 2020 while job losses in this field are estimated conservatively at ten million worldwide, suggesting a rapid drop in employment that is profoundly affecting the livelihoods of creative workers, especially freelancers who are experiencing higher levels of income loss and unemployment.

The report features examples of digital innovations launched in response to this unprecedented crisis and showcases how the digital adaptation underway in most of the cultural and creative industries has triggered the development of new production, distribution and consumption patterns.

Links to these and other reports are available on the UNESCO Bangkok Office’s website: https://bangkok.unesco.org/index.php/content/disruption-and-resilience-unesco-reports-reveal-new-data-impact-covid-19-culture