Wayne's reflection on World Scouting


I make no secret of the fact that I consider time spent in conferences and gatherings such as the World Scout Conference in Brazil as an obligation of being UK Chief Commissioner.

However, it’s sometimes hard to adjust to different ways of doing things, spending six days to do something that could be done well in three just isn’t my style. And then there is the politics!

A world of opportunities

Being a member of a worldwide movement is fabulous – the opportunities it offers our young people through jamborees, moots, group exchanges and solidarity projects to name a few are truly life shaping.

We have seen this week many projects where Scouting plays a pivotal role in educating young people, providing them with a purpose and with leadership opportunities in promoting peace.

Or, in the event of disaster such as in Haiti, where Scouts in the country have been helped by Scouts et Guides de France, and for ourselves through ShelterBox, for example, to be at the forefront of the emergency response and reconstruction of their whole community.

Helping others

We have also taken advantage of the Conference to meet with other National Scout Organisations (NSOs) and their representatives to discuss a wide variety of topics and issues. A good example covering many aspects is with Uganda where we met their Chief Scout and Chief Executive and other members of their delegation.

Some of you may recall the Unite project of 20 years ago where in the UK we raised money to help HIV aids education in Uganda. Today, they are interested in the progress we have made with rejuvenation of our youth programmes and recruitment and training of adults, and how we could use this experience to assist them.

We discussed ways in which we can help them develop and overcome their challenges and they have also asked for further help with the continuance of their HIV aids education programme and their Food for Life initiative.

We were also able to discuss more sensitive issues such as the concerns we recently expressed regarding human rights in their country and actions that are being undertaken in that respect.

The other side of cultural differences

But then there was the issue of Scout-focused governance and constitutional matters, where the myriad of cultures and languages that make Scouting such an amazing opportunity for personal development can also present massive obstacles around some core principles.

We may take these for granted in the UK (such as human rights and youth involvement) but the compromises required for agreement of a single worldwide statement often end in a weak or meaningless position.

We saw this on Friday where a proposed resolution from the full conference on human rights was withdrawn by the proposer and, after some hasty consultations, replaced with a statement from the World Scout Committee which, whilst being something we would all sign up to, lacked any new meaningful impact or sanction.

Of course, this is not unique to Scouting: all of these challenges can frequently be seen in the United Nations and other supra-national organisations. Perhaps it all just goes with 'the territory', but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

The darker side

And then there is the 'politics' - the behind-the-scenes haggling, bartering and threats from some proponents of particular positions offering promises or threatening to withdraw their support or even their funding if their particular views do not prevail.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a proper place for 'active engagement' and appropriate lobbying – both of which we certainly do - but what we don’t do are the threats and bullying: it is unfortunate to experience that this approach is not in the same place for everybody.

This is certainly an aspect that most disillusions me about Scouting, whether locally or even at the World level: some people seem to forget our fundamental principles.

Good progress on the way forward

On the whole however, it has been a great week with WOSM now having a clear strategy for Scouting and methods of working to support NSOs – essentially a light touch 'centre' providing tailored services to NSOs depending on their needs.

At the end of the day, you can only effect change from within and we are therefore very grateful to John May (now Vice-Chair of the World Scout Committee) and Craig Turpie (Chair of the European Scout Committee) and others who have committed their considerable talents to further WOSM for the benefit of young people across the world.

What really matters

And that’s what really matters at the end of the day, opportunities for young people. Also, in between our formal sessions and meetings, Derek and I took time to look at our UK domestic agenda. One area we were struck by was how we might use global opportunities to help develop the Scout Network section further. Watch this space

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