Growing the Sphere network in West and Central Africa

25 November 2015 | Sphere Project

Sphere in the Middle East and North Africa

19 participants from eight francophone countries met at the first West and Central Africa Sphere Practitioners Workshop in Dakar. See the photo gallery.

Humanitarian practitioners in West and Central Africa commit to grow a robust Sphere network across the region.

The first West and Central Africa Sphere Practitioners Workshop gathered 19 participants from eight francophone countries at the Gorée Island Institute, off the shore of Dakar, in Senegal on 28-29 October. The African Office for Development and Cooperation (OFADEC) hosted the meeting.

The workshop participants were humanitarian professionals from national and international NGOs, one UN agency, government officials, independent practitioners and a representative of the Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS) Project, one of the Sphere companion standards.

The two-day workshop began with participants analysing the humanitarian context of the region, looking at milestones between 1990 and 2015 as well as at the challenges and lessons learned while applying Sphere standards during the responses to major humanitarian crises in that period. On that basis, they discussed a variety of themes, including institutionalisation and contextualisation of humanitarian standards, response coordination and accountability.

Among the main outcomes of the workshop are work plans jointly developed by participants along four axes:

  • Increase the awareness of Sphere standards aiming at a larger dissemination across the region.
  • Facilitate and promote exchanges and mutual learning between Sphere practitioners.
  • Strengthen collaboration with governmental actors and UN agencies.
  • Advocate with donors for the added value of Sphere standards. 

A series of proposals and recommendations were agreed. They will allow practitioners to strengthen the Sphere network across the region. Among the priority actions are the establishment of country and regional Sphere focal points within the next 6-12 months; the development of simplified Sphere tools which can be translated into multiple local languages; reaching out to local NGOs; creating a group of Sphere trainers; approaching national disaster management authorities and ministries; as well as organising more Sphere training activities, including training of trainers courses. Sphere Project office support is expected, especially as regards advocacy work.

"We are very pleased with the outcomes of the workshop," said Sphere Director Christine Knudsen. "The mix of participants - from longstanding Sphere supporters to new advocates and practitioners who have just discovered the standards - gave a rich texture and great energy to the meeting. Judging by the personal commitment of the participants and the breadth of their interventions, we are confident about the future of the Sphere network in West and Central Africa."

The West and Central Africa workshop followed a similar event for the Middle East and Northern Africa region held in Amman, Jordan in May. This series of Sphere practitioners workshops being held in different regions aims to listen to Sphere advocates and champions in order to identify their priorities and needs.

As such, the workshops constitute the first steps towards transforming Sphere from a project into "a vigorous, deeply connected network of practitioners and organisations which will act as a global catalyst for humanitarian quality and accountability" (Sphere 2020).

Get to know Sphere practitioners in the West and Central Africa (more profiles coming up):

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