The Humanitarian Charter

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Humanitarian Charter cartoon detail

Usually referred to as the “cornerstone” of the Sphere Handbook, the Humanitarian Charter manages to lay the foundations of the Sphere edifice in less than 2,000 words. As such, is indispensable reading for Humanitarian practitioners working with Sphere standards.

What is the Charter?

An expression of the current consensus in the humanitarian community, the Humanitarian Charter captures both the ethical and legal foundations of humanitarian action.

As such, it lays the ground for the Protection Principles, Core Standards and minimum standards included in the Sphere Handbook while constituting a ‘stand-alone’ document.

In terms of legal rights and obligations, it summarises the core legal principles that have most bearing on the welfare of those affected by disaster or conflict.

With regard to shared belief, it states the principles which should govern the response to disaster or conflict, including the roles and responsibilities of the various actors involved.

For whom has it been written?

The Humanitarian Charter obliges nobody but those who voluntarily commit to its principles. In that sense, the Charter is primarily addressed to those “humanitarian agencies” that speak through its text.

But the Common Principles stated in the Charter are intended as universally applicable and therefore, everyone involved in humanitarian action could and should subscribe to them.

The Charter has been written not only for those humanitarian agencies that identify themselves with the Sphere Project but for all those who engage in humanitarian action.

Why read the Humanitarian Charter?

Although not a concrete guide to action, the Charter provides a solid foundation for any intervention on humanitarian grounds.

As such, it helps humanitarian practitioners make decisions that involve roles and responsibilities. It is also a useful tool for humanitarian advocacy.

The Charter together with the Sphere Handbook’s Protection Principles and Standards offer a reliable basis for those humanitarian agencies willing to be accountable for their actions.

The cartoons campaign

The Sphere Project office has published a series of posters and postcards that feature messages taken from the Humanitarian Charter illustrated with cartoons. Their aim is to increase awareness of the Charter among the community of Sphere practitioners.

By communicating some key messages of the Charter in an attractive and memorable way, the campaign seeks to encourage practitioners to study the Charter with even greater attention.

Read the Humanitarian Charter online.

Download the Charter (PDF, 180Kb).

Read a detailed analysis by James Darcy.