Sphere to become a global standards network

18 June 2014 | Sphere Project

Sphere Project Board meeting in NYC, May 2014 See the Sphere Project Board meeting photo gallery .

Meeting in New York City in May, the Sphere Board began to develop a new strategy to transform the Sphere Project into a global standards network by 2020.

Over three days of intense reflection on the future needs of the humanitarian sector, the Board outlined key aspects of the contribution the Sphere Project is best placed to make.

Board members envisioned Sphere as becoming a dynamic and forceful global standards network convening individuals, communities, standards-setting initiatives and humanitarian organisations.

The Sphere network will work to promote greater quality and accountability in humanitarian response as well as in disaster-preparedness and risk reduction. It will become a force for cooperation and coherence across the humanitarian sector.

The Sphere network will strive to increase the resilience of vulnerable people and of communities affected by disaster or conflict, heightening their ability as well as that of other humanitarian actors to put humanitarian principles and standards into practice.

To achieve its goals, the Sphere network will build on the current group of Sphere companion standards and work to create an enthusiastic community of practitioners committed to adopting humanitarian standards and principles, thus broadening their ownership and impact.

The global network will be open, inclusive and democratic, guided by universally accepted humanitarian principles, and based on collaboration and consultation. Its structure and organisational model will be determined in consultation with relevant stakeholders and constituencies, especially Sphere companion standards.

The new strategy is to be launched during the second half of 2014 and work to transform Sphere into a network would start immediately.

The Board discussions were enriched by the participation of representatives of Sphere companion standards. They also benefited from the input of 18 humanitarian experts who shared their views on the current trends, opportunities and challenges in the humanitarian sector as well as their thoughts about the future of both the sector and the Sphere Project. Sphere staff also contributed to the debates.


Involvement with the Core Humanitarian Standard

In that context, the importance of a common core humanitarian standard was clear. In the light of some recent positive developments in the CHS process, the Board felt that many of its previous concerns had been addressed. This opened up the possibility for Sphere to renew its involvement in the CHS, which the Board decided to do.

Additionally, the Sphere Board was convinced that agreement on a single core humanitarian standard - rather than having multiple sets of potentially competing core standards - is in the best interest of all humanitarian stakeholders.

While acknowledging the value of what has been accomplished in the development of the CHS over the last six months, the Sphere Board believes that the participation of the Sphere Project and its constituencies in the CHS process will strengthen the quality, credibility and acceptability of the final product.

As a result of the Board decision, the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP), People In Aid and the Sphere Project have jointly announced the next steps in the development of the CHS.


Board organisations and hosting arrangements

Mike Weickert, Board member on behalf of the Policy Action Group on Emergency Response (PAGER), announced the organisation's decision to withdraw from the Board. PAGER is a forum of Canadian humanitarian agencies, several of which are represented in the Sphere Board through their own families or networks.

Driven by financial constraints, PAGER's decision does not imply a decrease in the organisation's commitment to continue promoting humanitarian standards and principles. The Sphere Board accepted the decision with regret.

Nan Buzard, Board member on behalf of the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), which currently hosts the Sphere Project office, expressed ICVA's agreement to continue hosting the office until the end of 2015. Arrangements beyond 2015 will be discussed later on in light of the new Sphere strategy.

The Board meeting was attended by 16 of its 18 members, while absentees participated via telephone at different moments. The meeting was generously hosted by Save the Children and took place at the Hearst Tower in midtown Manhattan, the world headquarters of the Hearst Corporation. Austin Hearst, who entertained an informal discussion with Sphere Board members during one of the meeting breaks, graciously made the meeting venue available at no cost.


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