Many of you will have seen the media reports about the possible removal of the statue of Robert Baden-Powell, the Founder of the global Scout movement, from Poole Quay, in Dorset.
The intention, we understand, is to avoid damage to the statue as the important debate continues around the role of historical figures, following Black Lives Matters protests across the world. This is a vital moment to have honest conversations, acknowledge the huge strength of feeling and renew our commitment to education and understanding with empathy and humility.
As Scouts we stand together against racism, always. Inclusion and acceptance are at the heart of our values, and we are not afraid to call out racist language or behaviour.
We strongly support the principles of Black Lives Matter and also stand with those affected by racism. We are a movement that inspires openness, kindness, understanding and the power of community and friendship.
In the summer of 1907, a new movement was born on Brownsea Island, in Poole harbour Dorset – one that would bring skills, kindness and courage to millions around the world. It was here that Robert Baden-Powell founded the Scouts by taking a small group of young people from diverse backgrounds to live and work together. Their aim was to learn about the great outdoors, work in teams, and show we had more in common than divides us. Since that first camp, Scouting has grown, year on year, to become today a worldwide family, some 54 million strong, in almost every nation on earth. It is, without doubt, one of the greatest youth movements in history.
But it’s right that we make time to listen, educate ourselves, and reflect on history – acknowledging where there are times when views and actions from the past do not match those values we live by today. It’s also right that we do not make any accusations or form any conclusions without the facts. These are the foundations of an open and honest debate about our society’s past and future.
Baden-Powell was a complex figure, with changing and sometimes contradictory views that often reflected his time. We would never attempt to defend or agree with everything he did or said. However it’s obvious from the last 100 years, that Scouts has the power to unite people in a spirit of mutual friendship and respect and has become the greatest youth movement the world has ever seen.
For generations, the Scout movement has brought millions of young people together from different cultures and backgrounds to promote friendship, cooperation and understanding. This happens at a community level across the UK, and at a global level at World Scout Jamborees and international camps. We are proud to build bridges between communities.
As a movement, we’re also proud to support young people from every community in the UK, helping them develop values of integrity, respect, belief, care and cooperation.
To actively support our members, we have created and shared guidance and resources to help parents and volunteers to have conversations about racism with young people. This is a first step in helping give our members the skills, confidence and courage to challenge racism and other behaviours that go against our values as Scouts.
To be clear, there is no place for prejudice or discrimination of any kind in Scouts. Instead we actively celebrate the diversity of our members’ backgrounds, talents, thought and abilities that makes Scouting the vibrant community it is today.
As Scouts, we must all continue to listen and reflect on how we live up to our values and strive to do better.
Thank you for your own example, living and sharing our values.
UK Chief Commissioner