Factsheet: Scouting Around the World



Scouting began in England in 1907 based on Robert S. S. Baden-Powell's ideas and book Scouting for Boys. The book and program proved to have universal appeal for boys and quickly spread worldwide. Some aspects of the program vary around the world, but 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 world until it became what it is now—the largest voluntary youth movement in the world, with a membership totaling more than 25 million. Although there might be some differences in program administration, the entire movement adheres to these fundamental principles:

Worldwide Principles

Universal Practices

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

World Jamborees

A world jamboree is thousands of Scouts from many nations camping together in the spirit of world friendship. Such friendships and the 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 games; swim together; and learn Scout stunts, how to make gadgets, and how Scouts live 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 17th World Scout Jamboree was held in Korea in August 1991. The Netherlands hosted the event in 1995; Chile hosted it in 1998—99; and Thailand will host it in 2003.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement

The World Organization of the Scout Movement is composed of three parts.

The World Scout Conference is the general assembly of Scouting and is composed of six delegates from each of the member Scout associations. If a country has more than one association, the associations form a federation for coordination and world representation. The basis for recognition and membership in the World Scout 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 Durban, South Africa .

There are 151 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 Scout 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 Scout Conference and the World Scout Committee. The World Scout Bureau office is in Geneva, Switzerland, with regional offices in six areas around the world: Africa Region (Nairobi, Kenya), Arab Region (Cairo, Egypt), Asia-Pacific Region (Manila, Philippines), European (Geneva, Switzerland), Inter-American Region (Santiago, Chile), and Eurasia Region (Yalta-Gurzuj, Ukraine).

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 organizationwide effort for community development.

BSA Involvement

The Boy Scouts of America is represented in world contacts and developments by the international commissioner.

The BSA is a charter member of the World Scout Conference and is an active participant in its many and varied projects, services, and committees.

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 the staff of the International Division at the national office.

World Friendship Fund

The World Friendship Fund (WFF) of the Boy Scouts of America was developed during the closing days of World War II. 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, the WFF has aided virtually every nation in the free world that has Scouting. 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 WFF, 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.

A sampling of WFF-supported projects in recent years includes improved facilities at Kandersteg International Scout Centre in Switzerland; desktop publishing and Scout literature for the Scouts of Greece; adult training materials for the Scout Association of Nicaragua; youth Scout program literature for 11 Scout Associations of the Caribbean; supply of BSA handbooks to the Scouts of Micronesia; assistance in the resurgence of Scouting in Ethiopia; and camping equipment for underprivileged Scouts of the Guatamala Scout Association.

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

National Boy Scouts of America Foundation

The United States Fund for International Scouting (USFIS), within the National Boy Scouts of America Foundation, provides the opportunity for substantial support of World Scouting by individual business, corporate, and foundation grants. This fund is administered by an appointed committee of the BSA International Committee. The National Boy Scouts of America 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. Grant proposals from Scout Associations around the world are received and reviewed for disposition by a volunteer committee.

Member Scout Associations of the World Organization of the Scout Movement and Their Membership

Albania (4) 1,284 Germany (4) 127,012 Nigeria (1) 46,701
Algeria (2) 10,045 Ghana (1) 2,311 Norway (4) 15,234
Angola (1) 5,600 Greece (4) 19,467 Oman (2) 9,495
Argentina (5) 45,452 Grenada (5) 1,542 Pakistan (3) 508,176
Armenia (6) 2,035 Guatemala (5) 7,247 Palestinian Authority (2) 20,275
Australia (3) 109,527 Guyana (5) 294 Panama (5) 2,367
Austria (4) 16,323 Haiti (5) 9,859 Papua New Guinea (3) 1,674
Azerbaijan 1,213 Honduras (5) 4,319 Paraguay (5) 1,340
Bahamas (5) 3,173 Hong Kong 69,121 Peru (5) 12,727
Bahrain (2) 1,820 Hungary (4) 13,369 Philippines (3) 3,491,911
Bangladesh (3) 1,325,014 Iceland (4) 1,808 Poland (4) 117,733
Barbados (5) 3,041 India (3) 1,963,266 Portugal (4) 66,766
Belarus (6) 7,500 Indonesia (3) 9,961,921 Qatar (2) 6,000
Belgium (4) 91,198 Ireland (4) 38,784 Romania (4) 4,930
Belize (5) 869 Israel (4) 21,920 Russian Federation 14,000
Benin (1) 19,605 Italy (4) 108,656 Rwanda (1) 5,479
Bhutan (3) 1,145 Jamaica (5) 5,526 San Marino (4) 200
Bolivia (5) 7,600 Japan (3) 227,566 Saudi Arabia (2) 19,267
Bosnia & Herzegovina (4) 8,000 Jordan (2) 14,238 Senegal (1) 5,882
Botswana (1) 4,660 Kenya (1) 190,505 Sierra Leone (1) 7,902
Brazil (5) 60,518 Kiribati (3) 1,333 Singapore (3) 11,290
Brunei Darussalam (3) 2,617 Korea, Republic of (3) 247,445 Slovakia (4) 3,680
Bulgaria (4) 2,000 Kuwait (2) 6,061 Slovenia (4) 6,624
Burkina Faso (1) 10,165 Latvia (4) 1,179 South Africa (1) 18,496
Burundi (1) 6,661 Lebanon (2) 8,450 Spain (4) 82,971
Cameroon (1) 6,535 Lesotho (1) 371 Sri Lanka (3) 21,653
Canada (5) 238,957 Liberia (1) 2,418 St. Lucia (5) 393
Chad (1) 8,132 Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (2) 14,220 St. Vincent and 1,017
Chile (5) 35,180 Liechtenstein (4) 421 the Grenadines (5)
China, Scouts of (3) 69,353 Lithuania (4) 1,500 Sudan (2) 13,550
Colombia (5) 13,636 Luxembourg (4) 5,634 Suriname (5) 2,601
Comoros (1) 2,200 Macau (3) *getting # Swaziland (1) 4,994
Congo, The Democratic 62,842 Macedonia, the former 3,443 Sweden (4) 65,486
Republic of The (1) Yugoslav, Republic of (4) Switzerland (4) 29,909
Costa Rica (5) 11,729 Madagascar (1) 9,473 Tajikistan (6) 1,100
Cote-d'Ivoire (1) 6,436 Malaysia (3) 96,409 Tanzania, United Republic of (1) 49,993
Croatia (4) 3,607 Maldives (3) 4,518 Thailand (3) 1,237,515
Cyprus (4) 6,183 Malta (4) 2,900 Togo (1) 15,759
Czech Republic (4) 26,133 Mauritania (2) 3,790 Trinidad & Tobago (5) 6,600
Denmark (4) 51,727 Mauritius (1) 3,009 Tunisia (2) 40,920
Dominica (5) 1,100 Mexico (5) 59,531 Turkey (4) 6,257
Dominican Republic (5) 6,047 Moldova, Republic of (6) 1,540 Uganda (1) 65,152
Ecuador (5) 5,536 Monaco (4) 67 United Arab Emirates (2) 5,824
Egypt (2) 74,598 Mongolia (3) 6,623 United Kingdom (4) 542,277
El Salvador (5) 4,180 Morocco (2) 12,304 United States (5) 6,253,606
Estonia (4) 1,131 Mozambique (1) 11,403 Uruguay (5) 4,510
Fiji (3) 2,445 Namibia (1) 1,378 Venezuela (5) 10,754
Finland (4) 30,545 Nepal (3) 25,814 Yemen (2) 6,481
France (4) 113,570 Netherlands (4) 59,315 Yugoslavia (4) 12,080
Gabon (1) 3,835 New Zealand (3) 28,531 Zambia (1) 7,427
Gambia (1) 14,134 Nicaragua (5) 2,298 Zimbabwe (1) 3,111
Georgia (6) 1,063 Niger (1) 3,241
  1. Africa Region
  2. Arab Region
  3. Asia-Pacific Region
  4. European Region
  5. Inter-American Region
  6. Eurasia Region

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Last Updated: April 8, 2011