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World Scout Movement

     In discussing BSA's exclusionary membership requirements, many often wonder if other Scouting Associations around the globe have similar policies. Or what these other Scouting Associations think about BSA's policies.
     In this section are the detailed membership policies for two national Scouting Associations: the United Kingdom Scout Association and the Scouts Canada. Of all the countries, Great Britain and Canada have the most in common with the people and culture of the United States. Thus, exploring their policies will provide a unique perspective on BSA's policies.

     However, recent news accounts tend to demonstrate that other Scouting Associations are none to pleased with BSA's policies.

     In May 2002, "The Federation of German Scout Organizations (RdP) and the Union of German Girl Guide Association (RDP) noted with great concern the resolution on 'traditional values' of Boy Scouts of America, which states that 'an avowed homosexual cannot serve as a role model for the traditional values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law'." To see the full communiqué, click here.

     On July 13, 2001, at the 10th European Scout and Guide Conference a resolution was approved not to consider homosexuality as a discriminatory factor, neither inside nor outside of Scouting. The resolution was offered by the Belgian Delegation (representing five Scout and Guide organizations: VVKSM, FOS, FCS, GCB, and SGP), which represent 150,000 members in Belgium.
     The European Conference of Scouts and Guides, which took place from 7-12 July in Prague, was attended by more than 400 representatives from throughout Europe. Scouting and Guiding is active in 41 European countries, with approximately 3.5 million boys and girls participating.
     The Belgian proposal to avoid discrimination based on sexual preference opened with the charter of fundamental rights of the child adopted by the European Union in Nice in December 2000. Further, the resolution pointed out evolutions in society and the fact that Scouting and Guiding always follow the tendencies of youth culture to put to the test the principles of the movement.
     Included in the resolution was a statement that "holebis" [the Belgian abbreviation for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals] are to be universally accepted within European society and that this cannot be used as an exclusionary criterion by national Scouting federations/associations. The Belgian proposal was approved by a large majority of the conference representatives. Turkey, Greece, Romania, Portugal, Cyprus, and Malta voted against the initiative. The Belgian delegation hope that the approval of the resolution will have an impact on other regions of the world.
     According to reports, the BSA observer at the conference was "not really happy" with the resolution. No official reaction from BSA was ever released.

     In 1998 the Swedish Guide and Scout Council sent a letter to the BSA "asking how they could expel someone if they claim they are open to all without distinction." To date, they have received no answer. When they did not receive a response the Swedish Scouts, along with the Guides and Scouts of Finland, wrote to the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) about the criteria on which members could be excluded. According to the Swedish Scouts, the WOSM had replied that it was up to national associations.
     However, there are definite principles by which member associations must adhere to, in order to be a member of the WOSM.

    The World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) is an international, non-governmental organization ("NGO") composed of its recognized national Scout organizations. Its governing body is the World Conference, which meets every three years, and its executive is the World Committee composed of elected volunteers.

     There are more than 28 million Scouts, young people and adults, male and female, in 216 countries and territories. There are 151 countries with internationally recognized National Scout Organizations. There are 26 main territories where Scouting exists, often as overseas branches of member Scout Organizations. There are 35 countries where Scouting exists (be it embryonic or widespread) but where there is no National Scout Organization which is yet a member of WOSM. And, there are 7 countries where Scouting does not exist. (A PDF file showing a breakdown of national scout associations is available.)

     The World Scout Bureau is the secretariat of the Movement. It serves national Scout organizations from its headquarters in Geneva and its six regional offices in Geneva and Brussels; Cairo; Manila; Nairobi, Dakar and Capetown; Santiago de Chile; and Yalta-Gurzuf.

     The World Scout Bureau's services are funded by fees from National Scout Organizations, based on their membership and adjusted according to their country's per capita income. Other funding comes from contributions and grants from foundations, corporations, agencies and individuals. Significant support is received from the World Scout Foundation.

     The WOSM encourages (but does not require) that first world western Scouting Associations (like BSA) consider opening up their membership to girls, if they have not yet done so. Canada, Australia, and Great Britain are amongst some of the first world nations to offer Scouting to all young people.

     For those not familiar with the Scouting Movement (as in, not as packaged by BSA, Inc.), we've provided various resources for your review. Unless otherwise noted, all links are to Adobe Acrobat PDF files.

  • Constitution and By-Laws of the World Organization of the Scout Movement
  • At the 35th World Scout Conference (Durban, 1999) a  "Policy on Girls and Boys, Women and Men in Scouting" was adopted, emphasizing the importance of gender equality in all its aspects and at all levels within WOSM.
  • Report on the WOSM WonderForum on Spiritual Development - The third WONDERforum was organized from 7-13 July 2001. The aim of this forum was to enable Scout leaders in different parts of the world to share their views and experiences on spiritual development. The forum involved 24 participants from 12 countries in 5 Regions.
  • Scouting: An educational system is intended to help everyone interested in gaining a greater understanding of how Scouting works as an educational system. A large proportion of the publication is devoted to the Scout Method in particular because it is the Scout Method that encapsulates Scouting's educational system as it is experienced by young people. The publication attempts to explain each of the elements of the Scout Method and to illustrate how they interact and complement each other as a system.
  • Within the framework of the work on the Strategy for Scouting, the World Scout Committee, through its Strategy Task Force, prepared this paper on The Essential Characteristics of Scouting. On the basis of WOSMs Constitution, the paper provides a compact but comprehensive overview of the key elements which characterize our Movement and its mission.
  • Scouting in Practice: A Ideas for Scout Leaders is for all Scout leaders worldwide. It aims to highlight the essence of Scouting for everyone involved in using the Scout Method as a means of contributing to the development of children and adolescents.

     Another web site offers the text of a speech by the WOSM Secretary General on the spiritual component of the Scouting Movement.


     The mission of Scouting is to contribute to the education of young people, through a value system based on the Scout Promise and Law, to help build a better world where people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society.

This is achieved by

  • involving them throughout their formative years in a non-formal educational process
  • using a specific method that makes each individual the principal agent in his or her development as a self-reliant, supportive, responsible and committed person
  • assisting them to establish a value system based upon spiritual, social and personal principles as expressed in the Promise and Law.

     The WOSM is governed by the Constitution and By-Laws of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. In its most recent version (July 1983, reprinted 1990, Electronic version April 2000), it states that:



Definition 1. The Scout Movement is a voluntary nonpolitical educational movement for young people open to all without distinction of origin, race or creed, in accordance with the purpose, principles and method conceived by the Founder and stated below.

Purpose 2. The purpose of the Scout Movement is to contribute to the development of young people in achieving their full physical, intellectual, social and spiritual potentials as individuals, as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international communities.



1. The Scout Movement is based on the following principles:

 Duty to God

    Adherence to spiritual principles, loyalty to the religion that expresses them and acceptance of the duties resulting therefrom.

 Duty to others

    Loyalty to ones country in harmony with the promotion of local, national and international peace, understanding and cooperation.

    Participation in the development of society with recognition and respect for the dignity of ones fellowman and for the integrity of the natural world.

 Duty to self

    Responsibility for the development of oneself.

Adherence to a Promise and Law

2. All members of the Scout Movement are required to adhere to a Scout Promise and Law reflecting, in language appropriate to the culture and civilization of each National Scout Organization and approved by the World Organization, the principles of Duty to God, Duty to others and Duty to self, and inspired by the Promise and Law conceived by the Founder of the Scout Movement in the following terms:

The Scout Promise

    On my honour I promise that I will do my best
    To do my duty to God and the King (or to God and my Country);
    To help other people at all times;
    To obey the Scout Law.

The Scout Law

    1. A Scouts honour is to be trusted.
    2. A Scout is loyal.
    3. A Scouts duty is to be useful and to help others.
    4. A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout.
    5. A Scout is courteous.
    6. A Scout is a friend to animals.
    7. A Scout obeys orders of his parents, Patrol Leader or Scoutmaster without question.
    8. A Scout smiles and whistles under all difficulties.
    9. A Scout is thrifty.
    10. A Scout is clean in thought, word and deed.

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