The decision was made at the 17th session of the UNESCO intergovernmental committee for the safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Rabat, Morocco.
Rafting was recognized as non-material heritage following a motion submitted by Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and Spain, with Poland’s St. Barbara Rafting Brotherhood leading the effort.
The St. Barbara Rafting Brotherhood is based in Ulanów, a village in southern Poland from where timber was transported for centuries via a long waterway to the northern cities of Toruń, Grudziądz and Gdańsk.
The rafting traditions of Ulanów are kept alive these days mainly in their recreational and tourist versions.
Traditional rafting in Poland is also cultivated along the River Dunajec, with the 18 km route through the picturesque Pieniny National Park seen as a major tourist attraction.
Poland's Culture and National Heritage Minister Piotr Gliński has welcomed the addition of rafting to the UNESCO list, saying: “It’s a great honour for us, a source of joy and pride."
UNESCO defines intangible cultural heritage as “traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has previously honoured Poland's nativity scene, Corpus Christi, tree beekeeping and falconry traditions.