What is Sphere?
The Sphere Project was created by a group of humanitarian non-governmental organisations in 1997. At this time, after some serious difficulties in the management of response to the Rwanda Great Lakes crisis these organisations agreed that some minimum standards for humanitarian response needed to be put in place.
The Sphere Handbook establishes these universal minimum standards and shared principles in response to emergencies. It provides guidance for effective and accountable humanitarian response and advocacy.
CARE International is on the board of the Sphere project. Since the handbook’s first trial edition in 1998, it has been translated into more than 40 languages, becoming the internationally recognised set of standards for humanitarian response.
The launch of the 2011 edition (English version) took place in a dozen countries around the world on 14 April.
“The Sphere Standards are the benchmark for ensuring humane and fair humanitarian assistance to people in need around the world. I hope that all organisations that provide humanitarian aid will become familiar with the standards and use them. This will improve the quality of humanitarian assistance to survivors of disasters and conflicts.” Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
CARE and Sphere
Responding to disasters is a core part of CARE's work. And it's never easy.
Whether the disaster is man-made, natural or both, CARE staff must deal with the basic survival needs of vulnerable people often in very fragile situations.
Every time we must take great care in choosing how best to respond, ensuring that what we deliver is timely, adequate and appropriate. If we forget this, and do not listen to those affected by the disaster, we risk doing more harm than good. This is why the Sphere Charter and Standards exists and why they have become invaluable to CARE staff across the world.
We use Sphere often to guide us in planning and monitoring our activities. We know, for example, how many litres of drinking water an individual should have access to each day; we have a checklist to follow when setting up a temporary settlement for displaced people; and so on.
As well as these very practical tools and measurements, Sphere also gives us standards to follow to ensure that we are humane and accountable.
In Indonesia, following an earthquake in late 2009, CARE spent 9 months working with over 3,000 families to help them rebuild their homes. Here we closely followed the principles of 'people-centred humanitarian response' with great success.
We first chose families in open consultation with the wider community, then provided the cash grants and training that they had requested. The telephone hotline we had set up to receive feedback and complaints about our work was used almost exclusively by these families and their neighbours simply to say 'thank you'.