This article is from the Scouting FAQ, by Bill Nelson email@example.com, Soaring Golden Eagle firstname.lastname@example.org and Alan Houser email@example.com with numerous contributions by others.
Date: 31 Mar 2002
The World Organization of the Scout Movement is an
international, non-governmental organization 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.
The World Organization of the Scout Movement has issued a number
of publications which summerize the principles of the WOSM
and the place of Duty to God in the movement.
"The principles of Scouting, or values it stands for, are normally
summarized in three categories:
"Duty to God" - a person's relationship with the spiritual values of
life, the fundamental belief in a force above mankind.
"Duty to others" - a person's relationship with, and responsibility
within, society in the broadest sense of the term: his or her family,
local community, country and the world at large, as well as respect
for others and for the natural world.
"Duty to self" - a person's responsibility to develop his or her own
potential, to the best of that person's ability.
What is important to underline here is the exact function of the
principles, or values, within Scouting.
At the level of the Movement as a whole, they represent Scouting's
vision of society, the ideals it stands for and the image it projects.
For anyone joining the Movement, the principles represent those
elements which each individual must be open to accept and must
be willing to do his or her best to follow. This initial acceptance
does not, and certainly cannot in the case of young people, imply
in any way an understanding of the full significance of these values;
this can only be acquired through membership of the Movement
over a period of time. By contrast, a rejection by an individual of
these principles disqualifies him or her from membership of the
Movement, which is open to all provided they agree with its
purpose, principles and method.
Once a young person has expressed his or her initial acceptance
of these principles, through making the promise, the whole
educational process within Scouting consists in enabling the young
person to gradually understand these values, adhere to them and
make them his or her own so that they permeate the person's
behaviour throughout life. In the Founder's words "Self-education,
that is, what a boy learns for himself, is what is going to stick by
him and guide him later on in life, far more than anything that is
imposed upon him through instruction by a teacher".
In return, the Scout Movement requires a commitment from the
individual member - a commitment, first and foremost, to respect
and act according to the fundamental principles of the Movement:
duty to God, duty to others and duty to self. This commitment
is made through making the Scout promise, which is the public
expression of the willingness to do one's best to adhere to a code
of living based on these ideals.
This voluntary commitment to the Scout Movement extends also to
achieving the educational purpose of Scouting. This applies to
youth members, insofar as their own personal development is
concerned; indeed the voluntary commitment is an essential
component of Scouting's educational process, influencing motivation
and personal attitude, being in control of one's own personal
development, setting personal objectives, self-drive, etc.
Adults in the Movement must also be committed to Scouting's
purpose, principles and method, as their role is to help youth
members, directly or indirectly, to achieve their full potentials. This
leads to a strong sense of shared responsibility and partner-ship
among all members of the Movement: youth and adult,
"volunteer" and "professional".
Also implicit in the fact that becoming a member of the Scout
Movement is a voluntary act is the recognition that what the
Movement offers to young people - its educational proposal - is
not suited to everyone. Thus, not all young people are potential
members of the Scout Movement; there are those who, for
whatever reason, will never be attracted to it or find it possible to
adhere to its fundamental principles. What is critical, however, is
that the Scout Movement offers the possibility to join, to all those
who wish to, and does not construct barriers to membership that
are based on factors other than the fundamentals of the Movement.
It is important to note that what protects the Movement when it is
threatened by outside forces is the fact that its nature and specific
identity are internationally defined and agreed upon by all Scout
associations. For example, challenges to the Movement's fundamental
principles in any particular country can be defended on the basis of
conditions of membership of the World Movement.
From: "The Essential Characteristics of Scouting", World Scout =
For a history of "Duty to God" in Scouting and a discussion
of promise variations (not alternate promises), see chapter 4 in:
SCOUTING AND SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT, October 2001
"Scouting in Practice: Ideas for Scout Leaders", World Scout Bureau,
"Scouting: An Educational System", World Scout Bureau, 1998.
For more information on who the WOSM is see: