The World Crest Badge...(and why do we *all* wear it?)
The World Crest is a smaller symbol associated with the World Scout Flag which flies at the World Organization of Scouting Movements (WOSM) in Switzerland. It is the sole insignia common to ALL member nations of the WOSM, and in most if not all nations, where they base "their" national symbol of Scouting from. Only recently, has the Boy Scouts of America decided that all of its members will wear the World Crest as a symbol of unity and world brotherhood.
The World Organization decided after the second World War that all member nations would issue and wear a patch with the World Crest on it as a sign of world brotherhood and unity among all Scouting organizations in teh then "free world". The BSA along with a small group of other countries agreed but declined to carry out the mandate, stating that their program "will do so when the time is right for it to happen", stated then-Chief Scout Arthur Schuck.
The first uses of the World Crest was during the World Jamboree in 1955, although the badge was available to Scouts and Scouters several years before. In 1956, however, the BSA decided that Scouts and Scouters that participate in an approved "international activity or event" would wear the Crest to and from that event as members of other nations would be doing. The following year, 1957, the BSA made the World Crest available to local Councils (it was previously only avaialbe from the BSA's International Service), and established the requirements which lasted until 1991: "take part in an organized internaitonal activity or event with Scouts from another member nation of the World Association". It also established the World Crest as one of the few PERMANENT patches or insignia on the Boy Scout or Scouter's uniform.
No matter how many "international activities" you took part in, you could only wear ONE per life of the Scout. Nor could you purchase a World Crest without a card (similar to the Eagle Scout card) which states that you are indeed the holder of the World Crest.
The crest became known as the "Overseas" patch of Scouting informally by Scouts and Scouters, because while a few were earned by Scouts and Scouters taking part in events in Canada or Mexico, many more...the majority...were earned by Scouts and Scouters serving as members of the Transatlantic (Europe, Near East, and North Africa), Far East (Far East, Japan, and the Phillipines), Canal Zone (Panama) and Direct Service (all other areas around the world) Councils. Scouts and Scouters in those Councils routinely had interactions with host-nation Scouting groups and many of those Scouts and Scouters developed lifelong associations with individuals and groups over the years, camping and doing social events with them and their members. As those folks came back to the States, proudly displaying their World Crest, they were singled out for many special tasks and events in their Councils because "they have done something with foriegn Scouts".
So why does EVERYONE get to wear it now?
My best guess is that there were many jealous Scouts and Scouters that could not go overseas, could not atttend a Jamboree or some other event, and could not, therefore, earn the World Crest. The BSA did something about this, in 1990, and changed the rules allowing for Scouts and Scouters in the USA to earn a World Crest by simply "taking part in an international exhibit or display or an international event.", whether or not Scouts from another country were present or not. Robert Zadima, the Council Executive of the Transatlantic Council and his Far East counterpart, along with some members of other US local councils, strongly made their objections known to the BSA's National Director of Operations and to the International Division, but those appeals fell on deaf ears, and the policy was changed.
In 1991, the BSA once again changed the policy over the objections of many local councils, whose volunteers and professionals had grown to respect the World Crest and what it stood for. The present policy is that the patch WILL BE WORN BY ALL YOUTH MEMBERS AND BY ALL ADULTS, VOLUNTEER OR PROFESSIONAL, AS A SIGN OF WORLD BROTHERHOOD AND UNITY WITH OTHER MEMBERS OF THE INTERNATIONAL SCOUTING COMMUNITY.
Is there anything that has taken the place of the World Crest?
In order to earn the World Crest Badge before 1991, you must have participated in an international Scouting event or activity lasting five days or more. Today, each local Council has the authority to determine requirements for the International Activities badge, a 3-inch patch which is worn as a TEMPORARY EMBLEM on the right pocket of the Scout or Scouter. It is NOT worn in the PLACE OF or alongside the World Crest emblem.
Additionally, the BSA has developed the World Conservation Awards for Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts and this emblem is likewise a TEMPORARY EMBLEM to be worn on the right pocket of the Scout. Scouters cannot earn the World Conservation Award. The World Conservation Award is NOT a PERMANENT award, and therefore only the World Crest Badge is worn on the left side of the shirt above the pocket (or above square knots and/or year pins).
Here are one local Councils' requirements for the International Activities Badge;
and here are my comments and opinions on the current usage of the World Crest Badge.