Back to top
Back to top

What is membership of UNESCO worth to the UK

Organisations in the UK benefit by generating £90 million per year through the UK’s membership of UNESCO, the United Nation’s specialised agency for education, culture and the sciences. These finances, which include investment, tourism revenue, and project grants, have contributed to regeneration and conservation activities across the UK. Examples include:

  • The Cornish Mining World Heritage Site has attracted an average of £3.8 million of additional revenue per year since its UNESCO status, a 100% increase.
  • Between them, UNESCO Chairs at UK universities secure an estimated £2.9 million extra a year in fees, sponsorship and grants through the UNESCO label.
  • UK Biosphere Reserves secured £10.4 million in multi-year funding for biospheres and their partners in 2012.

These findings are published today in the UK National Commission for UNESCO report, Wider Value of UNESCO to the UK 2012-13, which brings together data and analysis of the costs, benefits and wider value of UNESCO to the United Kingdom. £90 million is a significant financial return on investment, six times the UK’s annual contribution to the organisation. The cost of UK membership of UNESCO in 2012 was £14.1 million, or around 23 pence per person.

Read more about the report at

Deborah Boden, Co-ordinator of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site said:

UNESCO World Heritage Site status has contributed to the millions of pounds invested in conservation and regeneration projects in Cornwall and west Devon’s mining landscape – over £50m since inscription. Equally important is the impetus it has given to developing new tourism and commercial partnership opportunities, attracting substantial external funding which has enabled a transformation in the presentation and promotion of this Site. This has helped local businesses to use the World Heritage status in support of their own growth aspirations and to create local jobs.”

UNESCO has formal links with over 180 designated sites in the UK and Overseas Territories through its programmes. While financial benefit is rarely an explicit aim of these programmes, the report shows that it can be a direct by-product. The conservative estimate of £90 million comes from an analysis of these designations, which range from universities and local archives to cities.

Professor W John Morgan, Chairman of the UK National Commission:

This is the first report to value UNESCO associated work in the UK in such a systematic way. While there can be substantial financial benefit to organisations which use their UNESCO affiliation, the report shows that there is often a wider motivation for seeking UNESCO status, such as social and environmental benefits.”

James Bridge, Chief Executive of the National Commission:

Organisations and communities from all around the UK are telling us that their affiliation with UNESCO makes a difference to them by bringing-in much needed finance, and getting-wider recognition as part of a globally recognised body.”

While focusing on financial benefits, the report emphasises that this is not the primary benefit of UNESCO to the UK. This lies in contributing to British priorities such as international security, respect for human rights and developing opportunities for international collaboration, among other issues.

Written: 25/09/2013 , last modified: 25/09/2013

Back to top

Regional and accessibility