Humanitarian consortium to release revamped industry standards 

The Sphere Handbook 2011 edition to be launched on 14 April 

The Sphere Project, a leading initiative promoting quality and accountability in humanitarian work will release a revised version of its Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

The launch of the Sphere Handbook 2011 edition (English version) will take place in a dozen countries around the world on 14 April 2011.

“The Sphere Standards are the benchmark for ensuring humane and fair humanitarian assistance to people in need around the world”, said Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. “I hope that all organizations that provide humanitarian aid will become familiar with the standards and use them”, Amos added.

The Sphere Handbook establishes shared principles and a set of universal minimum standards in core areas of humanitarian response: water, food, shelter and health. It offers common language and provides guidance for effective and accountable humanitarian response and advocacy.

“Sphere has now become the industry standard for humanitarian work worldwide”, said Peter Walker, Director of the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University. “What keeps it relevant is its insistence on being evidence-based and thus open to being updated as new evidence of needs and best practice come to light”, he added. 

The 2011 edition incorporates a new chapter — Protection Principles — which considers the protection and safety of populations affected by disaster or armed conflict as an integral part of humanitarian response. It also addresses emerging issues like climate change, disaster risk reduction, early recovery of services and livelihoods, cash transfers and civil-military relations. 

Understanding and supporting local responses to disaster is a priority reflected in the whole Handbook, as is reinforcing the capacity of local actors. 

For Ton van Zutphen, World Vision's Emergency Response Director and Chair of the Sphere Project Board, “the new edition with its many fundamental additions reflecting changes in the humanitarian sector is likely to enhance the Handbook's utilisation further”.  

The extensive revision of the Sphere Handbook that led to the 2011 edition involved more than 650 experts from some 300 organizations in about 20 countries. All the relevant UN agencies participated in the process. 

The Sphere Project was created by a group of humanitarian non-governmental organizations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Since its first trial edition in 1998, the Sphere Handbook has been translated into more than 40 languages, becoming the most widely known and internationally recognized set of standards for humanitarian response. 

The cornerstone of the Handbook is the Humanitarian Charter, which describes core principles that should govern humanitarian action and asserts the right of disaster-affected populations to life with dignity, protection and assistance. For the new edition, the Humanitarian Charter has been completely re-written so as to offer clearer language and strengthened linkage to the standards. 

A series of Core and Minimum Standards are based on best practices in the sector. The Core Standards pertain to the planning and implementation phases of humanitarian response. The Minimum Standards deal with four sets of life-saving activities: water and sanitation; food security and nutrition; shelter and non-food items; and health. They have all been significantly revised in the new edition. 

The Sphere Project, a unique voluntary initiative, is a consortium of humanitarian actors including some of the biggest and oldest organizations and agencies in this sector. It aims to improve the quality of humanitarian response to disasters or armed conflicts and the accountability of states and humanitarian agencies to their constituents, donors and affected populations. 

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