The purpose of the revision process was not to change the qualitative standards, nor to overhaul the Handbook, but to update the qualitative and quantitative indicators and guidance notes as needed, and to improve theoverall structure and consistency of the text.
However, the revision process revealed that a number of issues needed particular attention and significant changes. Consequently, the Humanitarian Charter was completely re-written, the common standards significantly changed, and a stronger focus on protection was introduced. The four technical chapters are all to some extent re-structured. The specific changes will be identified by the end of August 2010, based on thefinal focal point reports.
Like earlier revisions, this process was broadly consultative, and based on establishing consensus for the changes that were made. Besides producing an updated manual, the revision process also provided invaluable opportunities for discussion and consultation within each sector. It thus made an important contribution to the overall coherence of the humanitarian sector. A large number of individuals andorganisations have contributed to the 2009-2010 revision process, be that by providing the capacity of a revision focal point, by organising a consultation meeting, or by providing substantive input.
B. Overall changes:
1. Emerging issues
A number of emerging issues are now integrated in the Handbook:
- cash transfer
- civil-military relations
- early recovery
Furthermore, the humanitarian reform process has been taken into account, particularly by stressing the importance of coordination.
2. New and strengthened cross-cutting issues
The impact of climate change, disaster risk reduction and psycho-social issues have been added as cross- cutting issues in this new edition. There are ten of such issues: children, elderly, gender, HIV and AIDS, people with disabilities, protection, psycho-social, climate change, disaster risk reduction and the environment. They have all been strengthened. In addition, vulnerability and context analysis have been strengthened inthe sectoral chapters.
Moreover, education in emergencies is now more embedded and highlighted in the text, as part of the
Sphere-INEE companionship agreement.
C. Specific changes:
1.What is Sphere
This important introduction to the Handbook is being re-written to communicate the key messages around
Sphere more clearly.
2.The Humanitarian Charter
The Humanitarian Charter has changed significantly. It is now easier to read, and structured more coherently around a number of common humanitarian principles that govern the actions of states, non stateactors and indeed all members of society.
Reaffirming the primacy of the humanitarian imperative, the Humanitarian Charter spells out three overarching principles, which are based on both legal and moral/ethical considerations:
- The right to life with dignity;
- The right to protection and security;
- The right to receive humanitarian assistance
It also introduces the principles – during armed conflict – of impartiality, the distinction between civilians and combatants, proportionality, precaution and impartial relief, as well as the principle of non- refoulement.
The consultation process highlighted the need to address protection more substantially in the Sphere Handbook. Given developments in the sector, a specific section is being devoted to protection. This section is currentlybeing drafted and is complemented by the mainstreaming of protection as cross-cutting issue within the other sectors.
4. Core minimum standards for all sectors
This chapter (still in draft form) is structured around six core standards. They are a practical expression of the Common Principles described in the Humanitarian Charter and the entry point to the technical minimum standards. Each sectoral chapter assumes the companion use of this chapter to fulfil its own standard.
The core standards are
1. People-centred humanitarian response
(includes participation, community mobilisation, psychosocial, complaints and redress, information sharing)
2. Coordination and collaboration
(addressed to those who are coordinated, not to the coordinating bodies)
(2004 initial assessment standard expanded to cover initial, rapid and in-depth assessments)
4. Analysis and design
(includes parts of the 2004 response and targeting standards)
5. Performance, transparency and learning
(combines the 2004 monitoring and evaluation standards and includes accountability as a principle)
6. Aid worker performance
(linked to PiA and to HAP benchmark 2)
With this structure, the core standards focus more specifically on community-centred response and give more visibility to coordination and to performance and learning. The two “people standards” (standards 5 and 6) aremaintained but have changed significantly/ have been strengthened.
It is important to highlight the collaboration with other Quality and Accountability initiatives, in particular
with HAP and People in Aid, to ensure the coherence and complementarity between the publications and making sure one reinforces the other.
D. Structural changes:
1. The overall Handbook structure
The overall Handbook structure remains unchanged, except for the new protection text at the beginning of the Handbook. A specific attempt was made to improve the coherence betweenthe different sections of the book.
2. The minimum standards
In order to make the Handbook more practical, a new structure was introduced, essentially dividing the current list of key indicators belonging to each minimum standard into key actions and key indicators.
The role of the guidance notes remains the same, with a stronger emphasis on the importance of contextualising indicators and indicating that the do-no-harm principle takes precedence.
The new structure is as follows:
- Minimum standards are qualitative in nature and specify the minimum levels to be attained in humanitarian response/ the provision of [sector];
- Key actions are necessary activities and inputs to be taken in order to meet the minimum standards;
- Key indicators are ‘signals’ that show whether a standard has been attained. They provide a way of measuring and communicating the processes and results of key actions; they relate to the minimum standard, not the key action;
- Guidance notes include specific points to consider when applying the minimum standards, key actions and key indicators in different situations. They provide guidance on tackling practical difficulties, benchmarks oradvice on priority issues. They may also include critical issues relating to the standards, actions or indicators, and describe dilemmas, controversies or gaps in current knowledge.
The launch of the English version of the Sphere Handbook 2011 edition is now envisaged between the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2011. The Spanish, French, Arabic and Russian translations are envisaged to be published inJune 2011. The two main reasons of this delay have been the Haiti response (most revision focal points and working group members have been involved), and the development of the new text on protection.
Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response