Localizing Sphere: Chile and the Philippines integrate Sphere standards into national disaster response systems

26 October 2017 | Sphere Project

Chile launch ONEMI

A ceremony to launch Chile's new "Standards for Emergency Response" took place in Santiago, Chile, on 18 October. Photo credit: UNDP. 


Facing a host of natural hazards and recurring emergencies, both Chile and the Philippines have recently taken steps to embed the Sphere standards into national regulations on emergency response.

While broadly known, humanitarian standards are often under-utilized when disaster strikes. Sphere has been working with country-level actors to support efforts to address this in advance of emergencies by reaching out to government institutions and national disaster management authorities. Two of the most disaster-affected countries are leading the way in improving their own preparedness and that of their partners through close collaboration with Sphere’s national Focal Points to bring internationally recognized standards into domestic response systems.

Chile’s National Bureau for Emergencies (ONEMI) has worked to strengthen its emergency response capacity since the 2010 tsunami, which killed over 500 people and caused more than US$15 billion damages to the local economy. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – which also acts as the Sphere Focal Point in the country – collaborated with local and national authorities to introduce the Sphere Handbook as a core reference tool for first emergency responders, while also providing standards training to more than 200 civil servants from governmental agencies.

Thanks to UNDP’s technical support, and in coordination with public institutions, Chile successfully adapted the indicators for the Sphere minimum standards in water and sanitation (WASH), shelter, and food security and nutrition to be most relevant in their national context. Some 35 “Standards for Emergency Response”, tailored to the Chilean context and needs, were produced from their consultations.

Separated from Chile by the Pacific Ocean, yet linked by common disaster risk reduction concerns, the Philippines ranks among the top 5 countries most frequently hit by natural catastrophes over the last decade. With a clear awareness of the need to better prepare for emergency response, this year the Philippines government revised the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10821, a national law addressing the protection of children in disaster and crisis situations. World Vision and Plan International, both members of the Alliance of Sphere Advocates in the Philippines (ASAP), were part of the Technical Working Group which drafted the Regulations.

Rule 15 of the IRR now lists the Sphere standards as essential training to be delivered to emergency responders – which includes government officials, teachers, social workers, health personnel, and rescuers – alongside the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS), Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) guidelines, and other child protection protocols.

“We are delighted about these joint efforts with authorities and civil society coming together to focus on preparedness in context”, said Christine Knudsen, Sphere’s Director. “The work done to bring Sphere to life in these two very different countries demonstrates the best practice in our sector. Public institutions are rallying together to look at crises in advance and to be best prepared in the event of disasters. We look forward to working together in the years to come and to move forward in applying standards to different realities. The internationally accepted Sphere standards provide an excellent basis on which to build an effective humanitarian response that values the dignity of all people affected by crisis.”