Sphere companion standards strengthen mutual ties

28 November 2013 | Sphere Project

The Sphere Handbook and its four companion standardsBeing sector-wide accepted consolidations of current best practice and sharing the same humanitarian principles, terminology and structure, the five sets of companion standards have become a common language across the humanitarian sector.

Meeting in Istanbul on 23 October, representatives of five humanitarian standards-setting initiatives stressed their shared commitment to support quality and accountable work across all sectors of humanitarian response.

Over the past five years, the Sphere Project Board has recognized the following humanitarian standards as "companions" to the Sphere Handbook: Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS); Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS); Minimum standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery (INEE); and Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS).

Companionship agreements aim to promote complementarity between humanitarian standards that share the same rights-based approach and have been developed in a similar evidence-based and consultative manner. Companion standards become formally related and cross-reference each other.

Over the past couple of years, the working relationships between the Sphere Project, CPMS, INEE, LEGS and MERS evolved from bilateral agreements into an informal network of standards-setting bodies. Throughout this process, the companion standards have also found numerous linkages between themselves.

During their first face-to-face meeting, held in the run-up to the World Conference on Humanitarian Studies in Istanbul, the representatives of the five standards-setting initiatives agreed to explore ways to work together more consistently. As a first step, they committed to cross-promote and cross-reference each other more strongly.

The five initiatives believe that closer collaboration will be beneficial to all of the sectors and actors involved without jeopardising the particularities and specific work undertaken by each of them. Ultimately, it is the communities affected by disaster or conflict who should benefit the most from the advance of quality and accountable humanitarian action.

Together, the five participants in this informal network of humanitarian standards cover eight key sectors: Water, sanitation and hygiene promotion; Food security and nutrition; Shelter; Health; Education; Child Protection; Livestock management; and Economic recovery.

Being sector-wide accepted consolidations of current best practice and sharing the same humanitarian principles, terminology and structure, the five sets of standards have become a common language across the humanitarian sector. 


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