Sphere Project

What is Sphere?

Launched in 1997 by a group of humanitarian NGOs and the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, The Sphere Project is an initiative to define and uphold the standards by which the global community responds to the plight of people affected by disasters, principally through a set of guidelines that are set out in the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (commonly referred to as the Sphere Handbook). Sphere is based on two core beliefs: first, that those affected by disaster or conflict have a right to life with dignity and therefore a right to protection and assistance, and second, that all possible steps should be taken to alleviate human suffering arising out of disaster and conflict.

Sphere is three things; a handbook, a broad process of collaboration, and an expression of commitment to quality and accountability.

The Sphere Handbook

The Sphere Handbook – Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards for Disaster Response – was developed as, and remains, the key tool of the Project. The cornerstone of the book is the Humanitarian Charter, , which describes the core principles that govern humanitarian action, and asserts the right of populations to protection and assistance. The minimum standards and indicators that follow are not exclusive to Sphere. They are a compilation of best practice in the sector and a practical expression of these core principles.

In the current 2004 edition of the Handbook, there are 5 chapters following the Humanitarian Charter – an initial chapter detailing ‘process’ and ‘people’ standards for the planning and implementation of programs, together with four technical chapters covering water, sanitation and hygiene promotion; food security, nutrition and food aid; shelter, settlement and non-food items; and health services. The 2004 edition is currently being revised, with the new 2011 edition to be launched in early 2011.

The 2011 Handbook edition will consolidate the latest best practices in the sector while putting the affected population at the centre of humanitarian action. Understanding and supporting local responses to disaster will be a priority reflected in the whole Handbook, as reinforcing the capacities of local actors at all levels. The new edition will also integrate a set a new emerging issues like disaster risk reduction, climate change, conflict sensitivity, urban settings, early recovery, education, etc. in addition to enhancing the linkages and coherence with other quality and accountability products such as the HAP Standard, the People in Aid Code and the INEE Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies. The publication of the new edition will provide an opportunity for a significant global awareness-raising campaign to outreach to the widest possible audiences to update their knowledge and revitalize their use of Sphere

Sphere as a Process of Collaboration:

There are encouraging examples of spontaneous local attempts to replicate and disseminate Sphere, as evidenced by the more than 25 languages into which the Sphere Handbook has been translated and the emergence of Sphere Honduras and Sphere India as two examples of local processes which champion Sphere on their own initiative.

The Sphere Project:

Sphere was conceived as a project to develop standards and train people in their use. Ultimately, however, its success will be measured by the degree to which its methods and products become widely used throughout the sector, and improve the lives of people affected by disasters. The Sphere Project has been running in various forms since 1997:

For more information on Sphere Project, Please visit:  www.sphereproject.org

Other Quality and Accountability Initiatives

During the past decade the humanitarian community has initiated a number of inter-agency initiatives to improve accountability, quality and performance in humanitarian action. Four of the most widely known initiatives are the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP) , Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP), People In Aid and the Sphere Project. Representatives of these initiatives began meeting together on a regular basis in 2003 in order to share common issues and harmonise activities where possible; since 2006 these four have been joined by Coordination SUD (Solidarité, Urgence, Développement), Groupe URD (Urgence Réhabilitation Dévelopement) and the Emergency Capacity Building Project (ECB). It is hoped that the group may continue to expand in the future: if you work for an initiative that you think may be compatible with the aims of this group, please contact one of the members.

This short paper was originally written to provide a response to questions that are sometimes asked about the four Quality and Accountability Initiatives. At the end of it has been added in information also about the three other groups that now meet with the original four.

  1. Who are we and what do we do?
  2. Why do we do what we do?
  3. What are the similarities between us?
  4. What are the differences between us?
  5. How is complementarity assured?
  6. How much do we cost?
  7. How do we know that we are making a difference?
  8. Sphere India Quality and Accountability initiatives operationalisation strategy: