New home for Sphere Project office

15 December 2012 | Sphere Project

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The Sphere Project office will be hosted by the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) as of 1 April 2013. The Board of the Sphere Project made the decision at its 27-28 November meeting in London.

The proposal to become the new host agency for the Sphere Project office has received the "unanimous support" of the ICVA Board, said its Treasurer Rachel Hewitt, present at the Sphere Board meeting. Ed Schenkenberg van Mierop, ICVA's Executive Director and member of the Sphere governance since 1999, stressed ICVA's "strong commitment" to the Sphere Project.

The International Council of Voluntary Agencies is a global network of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that advocates for effective humanitarian action. Founded in 1962, ICVA brings the experience and views of over 70 national and international NGOs to international policy-making forums.

By virtue of the new hosting agreement, the status of the Sphere Project office remains unchanged. ICVA, whose headquarters are in Geneva, will provide the legal umbrella as well as financial and other services needed for the Sphere Project office to function.

The current hosting agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) will come to an end on 31 March 2013. The IFRC, which has hosted the Sphere office for over 15 years, has reaffirmed its commitment and support to the Project and remains on its Board.

Child Protection Minimum Standards

The Sphere Project Board accepted the companionship application submitted by the Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action.

Developed by the global Child Protection Working Group between January 2011 and September 2012, the process of drafting the Child Protection Minimum Standards involved over 400 humanitarian practitioners from 30 agencies in over 40 countries. The Child Protection standards follow the structure of the Sphere standards.

Companionship agreements aim to promote complementarity between humanitarian standards. Standards that are companions to the Sphere Handbook share its rights-based approach and are developed in a similar consultative manner. The Handbook and each of its companion standards cross-reference each other. They provide humanitarian professionals with a pool of harmonized sets of quality standards that are easy to use and refer to.

After a formal review process, a decision about the companionship application is expected at the next meeting of the Sphere Project Board in May 2013.

Joint Standards Initiative

The Sphere Board discussed the progress made so far and the next steps to be taken by the Joint Standards Initiative (JSI), a pioneering collaborative effort between the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP), People In Aid and the Sphere Project aimed at achieving a more coherent standards architecture.

Board members expressed their conviction that a robust consultation process with the three initiatives' stakeholders is the centrepiece of the JSI process. The purpose of the consultation is to ensure an accurate and shared understanding of the challenges to a meaningful uptake of standards at field level as well as the possible solutions.

In the opinion of the Sphere Project Board, the three initiatives involved in the JSI process have much in common as a result of their shared history and aims as well as the similar challenges they face. The Sphere Board hopes that the humanitarian nature and rights-based approach that characterize the Sphere standards will also become areas of common ground for the JSI process.

The discussion was in preparation for a joint meeting of the Boards of HAP, People In Aid and the Sphere Project that took place in London on 29 November.

Sphere and the humanitarian system

John Mitchell, Director of the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP), presented a summary of findings of the groundbreaking 2012 State of the Humanitarian System report and led a discussion about the role of the Sphere Project in today's humanitarian landscape.

Against the backdrop of the main trends in the humanitarian system - that is, the growth in funding, agencies, staff, diversity and complexity - Mitchell highlighted some of the achievements of the Sphere Project, namely its unprecedented inclusiveness, very strong brand and significant contribution to the professionalization of humanitarian aid.

The Board engaged in a lively discussion addressing some of what Mitchell sees as challenges for the Sphere Project: How to assess its concrete impact; Where to position the Project within an ever-more populated quality and accountability landscape; The need for more awareness of different principles (e.g., the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness) in complex operating environments.

Board members

Several new members have joined the Sphere Project Board since its previous meeting in May 2012. They are: Karin Settele (Aktion Deutschland Hilft), Nirmal J. Singh (Sphere India) and Carsten Völz (Oxfam International).

The Board expressed its gratitude for their faithful service to N. M. Prusty (Sphere India), Manuela Rossbach (Aktion Deutschland Hilft) and Elena Sgorbati (Oxfam International), all of whom have left the Board since its previous meeting, as well as to Lydia Beauquis, who left her position as a member of the Sphere office staff at the end of November.

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