Moving forward with Sphere 2020

26 June 2015 | Sphere Project

Sphere Board meeting in Rome

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The Sphere Project Board met in Rome on 27-28 May and endorsed concrete steps to implement the new strategic plan Sphere 2020. Representatives of companion standards joined one of the sessions as well as a meeting with the World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Food Security Cluster Global Coordinator.

In its first regular meeting of the year, the Sphere Board heard a report about the Middle East and North Africa regional practitioners workshop recently held in Amman.

The first such workshop in a region affected by acute humanitarian crises, the Amman gathering showed a clear need for - and commitment to - building greater capacity to deliver aid commensurate with humanitarian standards. It also explored common challenges in doing so and shared possible ways to bring the implementation of Sphere standards up to scale across the 11 countries represented.

The Amman workshop built on similar gatherings of Sphere practitioners in Asia and will be followed by a planned meeting in West Africa. These events will contribute to a broad stakeholders consultation to define the structure, scope and added value of a robust, inclusive network of Sphere practitioners in line with Sphere 2020 strategic priorities.

Towards a global humanitarian standards partnership

Board members and representatives of Sphere's four companion standards agreed on the value and opportunity of deepening their collaboration. They welcomed the idea of establishing a global humanitarian standards partnership to harmonise efforts in training, advocacy and field contextualisation.

Such a partnership will enable participants to address common challenges, learn from each other and develop activities that can best be undertaken together. Contextualisation, monitoring, training, institutionalisation and fundraising were some of the activities mentioned in this context.

Representatives of companion standards Minja Peuschel (Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action) and Tom Shaw (Minimum Economic Recovery Standards) attended the meeting in person, while Cathy Watson (Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards) and Arianna Pacifico (Minimum standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery) participated remotely.

A scoping study to define the vision and value of such a partnership as well as possible models for its structure and sustainability will be carried out in the coming months. Such a partnership will build on Sphere's companionship model while being open to other humanitarian standards to build coherence and efficiencies.

Operational accountability and humanitarian standards

Sphere Board members and companion standards representatives met with officials of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to discuss opportunities to build collective action around accountability and standards.

Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, stressed the need for organisations to incorporate the "culture of accountability" in all the work they do. He highlighted the contribution of Sphere and its companion standards to achieving that goal. "We want to continue benefiting from your work," he said.

Rebecca Skovbye, WFP Accountability to Affected Populations and Protection Policy Officer, emphasised the importance of having donors committed to accountability. "Changing a programme according to people's feedback may have cost implications," she pointed out.

Cyril Ferrand, Food Security Cluster Global Coordinator, highlighted the role played by humanitarian staff in implementing accountability to affected populations. If, on the one hand, the rapid turnover of humanitarian staff represents a challenge, on the other hand "having the right person in place can make a huge difference," he said.

New Board members and hosting arrangements

Two new members were welcomed to the Board: Pauliina Parhiala, Director and Chief Operating Officer at ACT Alliance, and Greg Ramm, Vice President for Humanitarian Response at Save the Children US. They succeeded Gaim Kebreab and Hana Crowe, respectively, to whom the Board expressed gratitude for their faithful services.

The International Council of Voluntary Agencies, which currently hosts the Sphere Project office, will continue to do so until the end of May 2016. Arrangements beyond mid-2016 will be discussed later in light of the new Sphere strategy and of the findings of the above-mentioned scoping study and stakeholder consultation.

Caritas Internationalis generously hosted the Board meeting at its headquarters in Rome. The meeting was attended by 15 of the 18 Board members and three Sphere staff.

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