Core Humanitarian Standard in the making

19 August 2013 | Sphere Project

[For new developments on this subject, see HAP, People In Aid and the Sphere Project on the harmonisation of humanitarian standards]

Liberian refugee in Tabou Transit Camp (July 2012). © Tommy Trenchard/IRINThe Core Humanitarian Standard will help humanitarian actors to be more effective and more accountable to people affected by disaster or conflict. Photo: A Liberian refugee closes a hole in the tarpaulin that forms her shelter in Tabou Transit Camp (July 2012). © Tommy Trenchard/IRIN

The Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP), People In Aid and the Sphere Project have started the process of developing a "Core Humanitarian Standard" as the centrepiece of a move to harmonise humanitarian standards.

The Core Humanitarian Standard aims to be easy to understand, simple to use and able to underpin current and future standards, technical or otherwise, that apply to humanitarian assistance. Its ultimate goal is to help humanitarian actors to be more accountable and effective.

The decision to develop the Core Humanitarian Standard was taken by the Boards of the three initiatives as a result of the Joint Standards Initiative (JSI) process, which formally came to an end in July. The development proposal was presented and welcomed at the 27-28 June Humanitarian Standards Forum in Geneva.

With starting points in the current HAP Standard, the People In Aid Code of Good Practice and the Sphere Core Standards, the development of the Core Humanitarian Standard takes into account feedback from the JSI consultations and the Forum, the Commitments to Accountability to Affected Populations (CAAP) of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), as well as humanitarian principles and the Red Cross/NGOs Code of Conduct.

Once finalised, the Core Humanitarian Standard is expected to replace the the three above-mentioned standards.

The three initiatives aim at an inclusive process. The drafting of the standard already involves input from several partner agencies. In addition to that, a number of humanitarian stakeholders will form a technical advisory group. The group will consist of UN agencies, donors, NGO networks not represented on the Boards of the initiatives, international and local NGOs, as well as representatives of governments and technical standards, including Sphere companions.

The development of the Core Humanitarian Standard includes a three-month consultation phase (December 2013 - February 2014) and a seven-month piloting phase (May - November 2014).

The consultation phase will focus on the content of the standard, including the choice of terminology in order to make sure that the proposed content is right and makes sense to the diversity of humanitarian actors.

A draft of the standard will be widely shared as of 1 December for comments and feedback. Humanitarian practitioners in the field and other stakeholders will be invited to engage in the consultation through various channels. Together with the draft standard, guidance will be made available in support of the consultation process.

It is at this stage that the broad community of Sphere practitioners, focal points, trainers and other stakeholders will be expected to get involved and help shape the Core Humanitarian Standard by sharing their feedback.

Once feedback from the consultation process is incorporated, the Core Humanitarian Standard will be ready for piloting by a number of selected agencies from May 2014 onwards. Its official launch is expected in December 2014. A detailed timeline covering all stages of the process from design to consultation, piloting and dissemination will be made available soon.

Other steps agreed by the Boards of the three initiatives are to develop a new standards architecture centred on humanitarian principles, and to carry out harmonised awareness-raising and support activities at country level. Clear guidance will also be developed on verification approaches, methods and tools. (The Sphere Project continues to promote the voluntary uptake of standards.)

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