Scouting Around the World


Scouting began in England in 1907 based on Baden-Powell’s ideas and book Scouting for Boys. The book and program proved to have universal appeal for boys and quickly spread worldwide. While some aspects of the program vary around the world, the principles of the Scout Promise and Law unite the world brotherhood of Scouting and prepare boys for adulthood in today’s world.

From its beginning on Brownsea Island, the Scouting idea spread around the globe until it became what it is now the largest voluntary youth movement in the world, with a membership totaling more than sixteen million. Although there might be some differences in program administration, the whole movement adheres to these fundamental principles:

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Worldwide Principles

  • Duty to God and respect for individual beliefs
  • Loyalty to one’s country and respect for its laws
  • Strength of world friendship and Scouting brotherhood
  • Service to others-community development
  • Universal regard for the Scout Promise and Law as a life guide
  • Voluntary membership
  • Service by volunteer leaders
  • Independence from political influence and control
  • Training youth in responsible citizenship, physical and mental development, and character guidance through use of the patrol system, group activity, recognition through awards, and learning by doing
  • Outdoor program orientation

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Universal Practices

These acts and symbols of Scouting are familiar all over the world:

  • Scout Promise and Law-duty to God and country
  • Design of badge-basic trefoil
  • "Be Prepared" motto
  • Universal three-finger Scout sign-sign of personal honor
  • Scout left handclasp
  • Use of the patrol system
  • Basic ideal of the Good Turn

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World Jamborees

A world jamboree is thousands of Scouts from many nations camping together in the spirit of world friendship. Such friendships and desire to know one another overcome barriers of language and differences in custom, race, and religion, making Scouting relevant to world brotherhood.

At jamborees, Scouts compete in Scout skills, trade friendship tokens, meet around campfires, and make lifelong pen pals. They sample each other’s foods, play wide games, swim together, and learn Scout stunts, how to make gadgets, and how Scouts live Scouting around the world. They also learn words and phrases in different languages.

The first world jamboree, called by Lord Baden-Powell in 1920, was held in England. Since then every four years, except during World War II, Scouts have met in a jamboree. The XVIII World Scout Jamboree was held in the Netherlands in August 1995. Chile will host the event in 1999.

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The World Organization of the Scout Movement

The World Organization is composed of three parts.

The World Conference is the general assembly of Scouting and is composed of six delegates from each of the member Scout associations. If there is more than one association in a given country, the associations form a federation for coordination and world representation. The basis for recognition and membership in the World Conference includes adherence to the aims and principles of world Scouting and independence from political involvement on the part of each member association.

The conference meets every three years, at which time basic cooperative efforts are agreed upon and a plan of mutual coordination is adopted. The last World Scout Conference was held in Bangkok, Thailand. Norway will serve as host in 1996.

There are 134 member associations in the World Scout Conference.

The World Scout Committee is the executive body of the conference and represents it between the meetings of the full conference. World Scout Committee members are elected at the World Conference for a term of six years. The members are elected without regard to their nationality.

The World Scout Bureau is the secretariat that carries out the instructions of the World Conference and the World Scout Committee. The World Scout Bureau office is in Geneva, Switzerland, with regional offices in five areas around the world: Africa Region (Nairobi, Kenya); Arab Region (Cairo, Egypt); Asia-Pacific Region (Manila, Philippines); European Region (Brussels, Belgium); and Inter-American Region (Santiago, Chile).

The World Scout Bureau is administered by the Secretary General, who is supported by a small staff of technical resource personnel. The bureau staff helps associations improve and broaden their Scouting by training professionals and volunteers, establishing sound finance policies and money-raising techniques, improving community facilities and procedures, and assisting in marshaling the national resources of each country behind Scouting.

The staff also helps arrange global events such as world jamborees, encourages regional events, and acts as a liaison between the Scouting movement and other international organizations. A major effort in the emerging nations is the extension of the universal Good Turn into an organization-wide effort for community development.

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BSA Involvement

The BSA is represented in world contacts and developments by the international commissioner.

The Boy Scouts of America is a charter member of the World Scout Conference and is an active participant in its many and varied projects and services.

The BSA shares its resources, program materials, and volunteer and professional expertise with the World Scout Bureau and its various associations throughout the world.

The international efforts of the BSA are supported by the International Committee, one of the operating committees of the national Executive Board, and by an eight-person staff in the International Division at the national office.

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World Friendship Fund

The World Friendship Fund of the Boy Scouts of America was developed during the closing days of World War 11. At the time, there was a great need to rebuild Scouting in those nations that had been wracked by war and were just emerging from the shadows of totalitarianism.

In the years that have elapsed, virtually every nation in the free world that has Scouting has been aided by the fund. Both those nations that have had Scouting before and those newly emerging nations that desire the Scouting program for their youth have been helped.

Through the World Friendship Fund, voluntary contributions of Scouts and leaders are transformed into cooperative projects that help Scouting associations in other countries to strengthen and extend their Scouting programs.

Types of projects include providing adult leader training for Scout leaders to attend a Scouting seminar in Geneva, supporting community development projects in Uruguay and Bolivia, providing funds for eastern European nations to help reorganize Scouting, and funding the production of the Russian Scout handbook.

Since the beginning of the World Friendship Fund, more than $1 million has been voluntarily donated by American Scouts and leaders to these self-help activities.

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The United States Foundation for International Scouting (USFIS) provides the opportunity for substantial support of World Scouting by individual business, corporate, and foundation grants. The foundation has full tax privileges and is not a private foundation.

Provision is made for trust and endowed instruments as well as current support of special Scouting projects around the world.

Foundation grants include support of a Scouting seminar for Russian Scout leaders, training of a professional Scout leader from the Czech Republic, support of the development of a Russian Scout handbook, major support of the World Scout Bureau and World Scout Foundation, and assistance to Scout Associations in Latin America.

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Adapted from "Scouting Around the World"
External Communications, Boy Scouts of America.

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Lewis P. Orans

Copyright © Lewis P. Orans, 1996
Last Modified: 8:13 PM on 11-23-96