European Overture Network meeting: Opening speech
We are evolving a more diverse society. The distance between people is getting smaller. We have the opportunity to get to know different cultures, religions and traditions in our own backyard.
This diversity is both a challenge and a resource. When I meet with children around Norway, it strikes me that they are far ahead of many us adults with regard to living in multicultural societies. We have a lot to learn from children and youth. But we also have important values to bring on to them. The Guide and Scout Association has an important role to play in this respect.
My experience is that the guide and scout movement is open minded, tolerant and flexible. Inclusion is at the core of the activities. One example is when the association invites a group of muslim mothers into the forest where they can experience friendship and the satisfaction of being outdoors, cooking on the open fire at the same time. But probably the most important work is done at the local scout meetings every week all around the world.
Last summer I spent some time with young Norwegian scouts at a camp outside Oslo. I was impressed to see how they focused on cooperation and how they had learned to meet practical challenges. These are values I try to bring on to my own children. The guide and scout movement is global – and is therefore initially diverse. This encourages curiosity and tolerance towards other people. When people meet and get to know each other, we are not any longer “the girl with hijab” or “the boy in a wheel chair”. We are names, personalities, friends. Inclusion of minorities has to happen locally, and I am glad to see that the scout movement is in front with good practices. Successful integration is when participation at all levels of society is ensured.
Voluntary organizations in Norway have traditionally been great facilitators of including groups that for different reasons find themselves on the outskirts of mainstream society. The tradition of involving everyone in an endeavor is equally a tradition that has always been strongly promoted by the scout movement.
The goal of guiding and scouting is to develop young people to be independent and take action in society. Being a scout means taking responsibility.