Joint Standards Initiative

Over the last 20 years, the humanitarian sector has become increasingly professionalized, with the development of a variety of standards and accountability mechanisms to ensure high quality humanitarian assistance.

In recent years, there has been a proliferation of such initiatives, which has in turn led to confusion, lack of awareness and inconsistent application of standards amongst field workers and others.

The Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) International, People In Aid and the Sphere Project have therefore decided to seek greater coherence for aid workers and humanitarian agencies through a process of convergence of their standards, which will in turn improve humanitarian action to the people affected by disaster or conflict.

This pioneering collaborative effort to transform the quality and accountability system is called the Joint Standards Initiative (JSI).

The key components of the Joint Standards Initiative are:

Steering Group

The Steering Group is composed of the Chairs of the Boards of the participating initiatives, the Project Manager/Executive Directors of the initiatives and an additional member from each of the boards.

The Steering Group is chaired on a four-month rotating basis (the Sphere Project, People In Aid, HAP). The Steering Group has already been meeting for several months and jointly authored the JSI proposal.

The Steering Group is responsible for the overall process, ensuring communication between its different elements and integration of the outputs as well as for forging an agreement to be approved by the respective governing boards. They will also be addressing the practical implications of the recommendations, such as models of co-habitation, joint governing boards, etcetera.

Consultation with stakeholders

A major consultation will take place with a broad range of stakeholders to ensure that the problem is clearly understood and to propose changes. This range of expert views will feed into the Working Group.

The consultation will include: beneficiaries, agencies in the Global South, aid workers, member organizations, those who have contributed to the standards, UN agencies, companion standards, donors and funding partners, academics and others.

Methods to be used will include surveys, individual interviews, focus group discussions and desk research. Consultation with and inclusion of Southern stakeholders will be maximised.

Working Group on Standards and Organizations

The focus of this group is to examine the standards themselves and the challenges and opportunities to be gained by bringing the three organizations together. The findings from their work will be considered at a Humanitarian Standards Forum scheduled for late Spring 2013.

The Working Group is comprised of board members from the Sphere Project, HAP and People In Aid boards, senior humanitarian specialists from a representative range of humanitarian agencies including the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response, a donor representative, a United Nations representative and an independent representative.

Working with external organizational development specialists, the group will consider the wide range of options for the configuration of a joint standard and organization.

This website was launched in early April 2012. It provides access to the key standards in over 15 languages, as well as the opportunity to search for resources across the HAP, Sphere Project and People In Aid websites.

This is a major step forward in bringing about greater coherence amongst standards and strengthening aid workers' ability to put these standards into practice around the world.

  • For more information about the Joint Standards Initiative please visit

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