The International Peace of Westphalia Prize has been in existence since 1998. It was established on the occasion of the 350th anniversary of the peace agreement and has since then been awarded every two years by the “Wirtschaftliche Gesellschaft für Westfalen und Lippe e. V.” (WWL) (Economic Association of Westfalen and Lippe). Many great names can be found among the previous award winners, such as Helmut Schmidt, Daniel Barenboim or Kofi Annan. In a second category, there is always a youth award that honours children and youth organizations for their special commitment to peace. The Scout Prize 2018 is awarded to scouts, represented by the Rings of German Scout Associations (rdp). One day before the award of the Peace Prize I visit Ylva Pössinger in Düsseldorf. She is the federal chairman of her association. From her I would like to know why the prize will be awarded to the scouts, what exactly her organisation does and what reactions this honour has received.
Ylva Pössinger is sitting at her desk next to a trolley case. She doesn’t have much time. In a few hours she is expected to rehearse in Münster. There, together with four youth representatives of the scouts, she will be briefed for the award ceremony. It’s a big event with important guests. Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Armin Laschet are expected as laudators. “We were eager for scouts from the base to receive the prize. Their commitment is what is important here. We have selected four young people between the ages of 14 and 23. And they’re pretty nervous,” says the chairwoman.
I would like to know exactly what the Rings of German Scout Associations are. “The organizations around the scout movement are very heterogeneous. There are a number of different local groups and associations with different orientations. The term is not protected, anyone can call themselves that. But the international scout associations need one organisation per country.” This has led to several associations in Germany joining together to form two rings: the “Deutsche Pfadfinderschaft Sankt Georg” (DPSG) (German Scout Association of St. George), the “Pfadfinderinnenschaft St. Georg” (PSG) (Girl Scout Association of St. George), the “Bund der Pfadfinderinnen und Pfadfinder” (BdP) (Association of Scouts) and the “Verband Christlicher Pfadfinderinnen und Pfadfinder” (VPC) (Association of Christian Scouts).
Ylva Pössinger explains: “Originally, it was only a formality to have a joint organisation internationally. However, a genuine exchange and very good cooperation has developed from this.” She also reports that although people do not always share the same view, they deal very intensively and seriously with each other’s points of view. “We rarely make decisions by overruling the others. In most discussions, a common consensus is agreed upon.” For Ylva Pössinger, this reflects upon an essential attitude of the scouts: “We are open to diversity and accept our members as they are. We’ll have to live that at board level.”
I would like to know if this is also a reason why the scouts were awarded the Youth Peace Prize. “We didn’t get it because we help an old lady across the street every day, as some believe,” laughs Pössinger. The motto “Every day a good deed” is not the only key element of scout work. However, it does reflect the attitude of the organization. “It’s about togetherness in the scout tribes. Everyone is welcomed and integrated,” Ylva Pössinger explains to me. It is important to treat each other and the environment with care. “We usually meet weekly. The content of the meetings may be something very practical – like learning knots or making fire as classic scout skills – or something theoretical like one’s own resolutions and values.”
Armin Laschet will formulate the work of the scouts in his laudation on the following day as follows: “The scouts are role models who embody the ideals of a peaceful, tolerant world”. The state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia emphasizes that it is more important today than ever to stand up for each other and look after each other.
On the day before the award ceremony in her office, Ylva Pössinger explains: “You’re a scout all your life. It’s an attitude.” The reasoning behind the Peace Prize was not only about this inner attitude, but also about a concrete, externally effective annual act of the scout associations: the campaign “Peace Light from Bethlehem”. Since 1986 a child from Austria has been sent to Bethlehem on the initiative of ORF to light up a light of peace. This is then taken to Austria by plane and passed on from there. The Rings of German Scout Associations finally distribute this light all over Germany. A very symbolic action for peace in the Advent season. “This is something special every time. The light is passed from one candle to the next. Someone once told me: He who holds a candle in one hand cannot strike with the other. This is correct. Holding and passing the flame on to one’s neighbour is a deeply peaceful symbol.”
The passion with which many scouts are involved can also be seen in Ylva Pössinger herself. For 20 years she has been a dedicated girl scout, and for two years she has been federal chairwoman. Her “tribe ” is in her hometown. But she also remained active during her studies in Münster. “I am still enthusiastic about the scout work, the many encounters and the great cooperation. That will never lose its fascination,” explains the full-time girl scout.
And now, as recognition of their work, the award of the Youth Peace Prize. Is that something special, I want to know from her. “Yes, of course. Our work is often not known to outsiders, and there are also a number of prejudices. For example, we are asked quite often whether we would not walk through the forest all day and collect sticks. We are therefore incredibly proud that we are now being honoured for our work from outside and by such a recognised institution,” emphasises Ylva Pössinger.
After the weekend of the award ceremony I call Ylva Pössinger again. I would like to ask her how she experienced the ceremony and what impressions she got from Münster. She tells me: “That was really very, very impressive. Already on Friday evening there was a festive dinner at which our four representatives were allowed to sit at the prize winners’ tables. Together with the four heads of state of the awarded Baltic states, they mastered this meal confidently, had good discussions and then told me enthusiastically about the evening. It was amazing how well they managed all of this. We were very proud of them! On the day of the award ceremony they sat next to Armin Laschet in the front row. When they received the prize on stage and were questioned, they gave very successful and sometimes funny answers. The entire event was extremely atmospheric and a great honour for us scouts”, enthuses the Federal Chairwoman and concludes our conversation with the sentence: “This evening will certainly remain unforgettable for all participants”.