Standardizing Humanitarian Aid

The Sphere Project has undertaken a major task: to standardize humanitarian aid all across the world. It has already produced a humanitarian handbook with guidelines on how to provide aid in the best and most efficient way.

“The idea is actually really straightforward – simple tools are easier to use, and if they are easier to use, they are more likely to be used, and if they are likely to be used, our belief is that they will make a difference in response,” said Johnson, board chair of the Sphere Project.

The Sphere Project identifies basic principles and types of relief that aid workers should provide when arriving in a disaster situation. These include delivering food, clean water, shelter, healthcare, and trying to protect people from violence and other dangers. With the growing number of agencies on the ground there have been more problems with poor coordination and duplicate aid efforts. Standardizing humanitarian aid will relinquish some of these conflicts and, hopefully, provide better aid.

Matthew Carter, board member of the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) wanted to find out what aid workers thought were the standards for humanitarian aid. Surprisingly, he found that many aid workers did not think there were standards out there. Carter said the new handbook would focus on essential humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

“Instead of field workers we’ve all seen turning up with a suitcase full of guidelines, or lack of such a suitcase, there will be one standard that everyone will work too,” he said. “It’s already looking quite clear where there is going to an instant agreement, where there’s overlap, and how we go about developing it.”

The project is adamant about finding solutions to include smaller, local organizations in developing countries. They realize there will need to be much more training, but thankfully there is technology to spread the information quicker than ever. “What we really need to be sure we don’t create is just another northern-centric set of standards that have little relation to the south – we are global citizens and we are all responsible for providing aid,” said Carter.

Catherine Ulrich

Sources: The Sphere Project, Alertnet