Putting People at the Centre of Humanitarian Action and the WHS

19 May 2016 | Sphere Project

Sphere and Partners call for commitments to quality assistance, protection, and accountability at the World Humanitarian Summit.

In just a few hours, the World Humanitarian Summit will convene in Istanbul with world leaders, community activists, and front line responders meeting to renew commitments to a shared humanity. The Sphere Project will be there, joining with partners to support the call for greater local leadership, regional capacity, understanding of context, and effectiveness (see Sphere WHS statement here).

Every person affected by crisis has the right to humanitarian assistance according to need. But we know that simply delivering an adequate amount of food, water, shelter, and health care is not enough. Water distribution saves lives, but making sure it is potable, palatable, accessible for all, and safe to reach is what makes the difference between mere survival and life with dignity for millions of families, women, men, girls, and boys when crisis strikes.

Universal minimum standards are essential for the people we aim to assist, first and foremost, and put those affected by crisis firmly at the centre of our work. These standards provide the framework for what people can expect and claim of humanitarian action, both in the quality of assistance and in how it is provided. It is the basic tool upon which accountability is established. A collective commitment to the quality of humanitarian action must be at the heart of the WHS deliberations.

To contribute to the debate, Sphere has worked with Groupe URD, CHSA, and the Swiss and Danish governments, to organize an important side event on Quality and Accountability (Monday 23 May, 13:00-14:30, Rumeli Hall 3).

Panelists include Lise Grande, HC/RC Iraq, speaking to the challenges of accountability and standards in some of the world's most difficult operational contexts, and Alejandro Maldonado, Executive Secretary of CONRED/Guatemala, who will speak to his experience integrating Sphere into national policies and response.

In a separate side event, the Sphere Director, Christine Knudsen, will be a panellist on Urban Response, discussing the adaptation of Sphere Standards to urban contexts in practice (Tuesday 24 May, 13:00-14:30, Rumeli Hall 1).

Here you will find a more extensive list of events and initiatives relevant for Sphere partners.

And Sphere does not stand alone in these initiatives. With the launch of the new Global Humanitarian Standards Partnership (GHSP) with the Sphere Companion Standards we are joining voices with INEE, LEGS, MERS, CPMS, and CaLP to leverage even greater visibility, awareness, learning, and application of humanitarian standards globally.

Building on the Humanitarian Charter, Protection Principles and the Core Humanitarian Standard as a common foundation, these complementary technical standards become even more powerful in supporting practitioners through a coherent approach to quality and accountability.

And in support of broader commitments with partners, Sphere has also signed up to three important initiatives at the Summit:

• The Evidence Lounge commitment with 21 partners advocating for greater research, synthesis and data in support of evidence--based humanitarian work.

• The Inclusion Charter, ensuring that assistance reaches all those most in need, including marginalized and less visible members of affected communities.

• Support for CaLP's "100 days of cash" initiative, unpacking what it would take to make the UN's call for cash as a default method of support a reality on the ground.

The debates, outcomes, and commitments which emerge over the next days will be important for all of us as a community, and particularly for Sphere as we take these elements actively into the next revision of the Handbook which we will launch later this year.

Humanitarian standards are a tried and tested foundation for the changes we want to see in quality and accountability, built on our shared principles and a universal rights-based approach which put people squarely at the centre of humanitarian response. Join us in following the debates on Facebook, and/or on Twitter.

For those of you in Istanbul, make sure you also stop by the Sphere stand for more information on the GHSP, new urban guidelines, support for working with national authorities on adapting standards in context, new training tools and much more! 

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