Brussels (Day 2)

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International evenings are a superb feature of international Scout and Guide gatherings; a chance to experience the culture of each of the countries participating – well, in reality share lots of food and drinks. But before we get there, we have a day’s business to get through.

Sunday, like each of the days, starts with a meeting of our delegation over breakfast at 0745. This is the time to review the agenda, agree some objectives for the day (who we wish to engage with, etc) and finalise the shopping list for the International Evening. Main topic today appears to be the unreliability of the showers and water supply; clearly I'm lucky to be an early riser!

Rovering to success

Business starts with the opening of the joint conference and reports of the work that has been undertaken jointly by Guides and Scouts across Europe over the past three years. Roverway is the largest joint activity, with over 3,000 Scouts and Guides aged 16-22 from across Europe gathering for Roverway 2009 in Iceland. We also receive a report on the planning of Roverway 2012 which will take place in Finland – we have a discussion over lunch about whether or not we could host Roverway 2015 and what this might entail. Food for thought perhaps?

Each of the candidates standing for election to the respective committees (European Committees for each of WOSM and WAGGGS) had an opportunity to give a three-minute speech or presentation to the conference – a chance to see and hear what each believes in and feels they can contribute. We are supporting Craig’s nomination for WOSM and Amanda’s for WAGGGS. Over lunch we discuss our observations on each of the candidates for the Scout committee and agree who is going to meet individually with each candidate and what we seek clarification of.

Questions answered

The afternoon session sees three external guests join us for a panel presentation and debate entitled “Europe Today – No Limits?” The panel members are the heads of inter-government bodies UN Volunteers, European Youth Council and the EU Advisory Group on Youth. The questions asked by the facilitator (Midge, a GGUK member of the WAGGGS committee) covered issues about the future of volunteering, challenges facing young people in Europe and how Scouting and Guiding might adapt to address these.

Interestingly, for a discussion on volunteering, all the panel members are paid employees in the roles they were undertaking! Some of the comments were very thought provoking (what role for Scouting in addressing youth unemployment for example, and the decline in volunteering seen in most European Countries), unfortunately some of the presentations are a little long and so there is no time for a debate on the solutions.

Business for the day concludes with working group discussions on the joint actions (growth, embracing change and volunteering) to identify successes, challenges and future actions). Again, we divide the list to ensure we have somebody at each of the sessions. We also additionally use the time for individual meetings with National Scout Organisations (NSOs) and others involved with World Scouting etc.

Pimm's o'clock

So, on to the main event of the day – the International Evening. Set in the Place St Catherine (a square in Brussels City Centre) where each Country sets up a stall and shares examples of their traditional fare, in our case we have brought and prepared Pimm's (Andy even found fresh mint in central Brussels) and a non alcoholic punch and the Guides are serving scones, jam and cream. It’s also a chance to dress in our national costumes, so Richard takes the opportunity to wear his kilt. The natural ambience of the square created a great environment for the evening with lots of socialising and networking. It was also open to the public so a large number of non-Scouts enjoyed our hospitality and were interested in learning what we were up to.

A big success, although our efforts at building international relationships were very nearly torpedoed by our Global Advisor, James. Proud of the Pimm's he had prepared and keen to entice our French colleagues away from the rather nice wine they were offering, he found a nice clean cup from our box of supplies, enthusiastically poured a cup of Pimm's and in his rather impressive French offered it to Christian of Scouts and Guides de France – luckily, I spotted just in time that James had managed to find the cup with our supply of washing up liquid in!

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