More than 1,500 youngsters have gathered in Interlaken for the first-ever European boy scout and girl guide jamboree with a distinctly international flavour.
"eurolife.01" is dedicated to teaching youngsters to be responsible "world citizens", and to fostering tolerance and respect towards others through a series of workshops, discussion groups and outdoor activities.
"I think a great element of such an international event is that the participants have to learn that there are different cultures and that perhaps their neighbour has a different way of doing the same thing," Bettina Horber, the head of communication at the conference, told swissinfo.
"In the end, they have to learn to tolerate those who live around them," she added.
Horber believes that Switzerland is best placed to host such an event. The country is a microcosm of the ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of the global community.
It has four official languages for example, and "eurolife.01" organisers hope the ability of the Swiss to live in relative harmony together will serve as a good example to the participants.
Activities such as hiking and river rafting have been organised to encourage the teenagers to interact with one another as much as possible, and to have contact with those from different cultural backgrounds.
The central theme of the event, initiated by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, is "Building World Citizenship". "We hope to build friendships and talk about peace and ecology for example in order to realise this aim," Horber said.
The human rights group, Amnesty International, is an example of organisations that will be hosting some discussion forums on issues such as communication across cultures, AIDS and teenage pregnancy.
Further, there will be numerous excursions to nearby towns and attractions during the course of the conference which ends on August 4. There will be a range of entertainment on offer, with concerts, campfire sing-a-longs, dancing and even Swiss cookery workshops.
Interlaken's military airport between Lakes Thun and Brienz, has been converted into a giant campsite to host the youngsters who have come from 22 different countries.
The Participating nations have contributed towards the event's SFr1.5 million budget following a principle of solidarity where richer states pay more than those with smaller budgets.
Horber said the organisers hope "eurolife.01" will be followed up with similar events in the future where young people can share their experiences and knowledge with one another, while having a lot of fun.
The conference has received a resounding endorsement from the Swiss government, as President Moritz Leuenberger will address the youngsters on August 1, Swiss national day.
by Samantha Tonkin
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