Representatives from New Zealand NGOs and international humanitarian agencies including Caritas, ChildFund, World Vision, ADRA, SurfAid, TEAR Fund, CWS, Red Cross and UNICEF, joined staff from the Council for International Development (CID), MCDEM, MFAT and NZ Police for a two day intensive training workshop in Wellington this month.
Organised by CID and delivered by experts from the New Zealand Aid Programme’s Humanitarian and Disaster Management team, Sphere is a well-known, world-wide set of principles and standards for humanitarian response. The format of the workshop encouraged the application of the Sphere principles and standards through presentations, group work, brainstorming and case studies.
The Sphere Project was established in 1997 when 700 individuals and 200 agencies came together to jointly develop a people centred, rights-based and quality driven approach to humanitarian response. The catalyst for this collective action came out of a damning evaluation of the international response to the Rwanda genocide in 1994. The genocide led to an unprecedented refugee exodus and thousands of preventable deaths.
The Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response provides common principles and standards that should inform all humanitarian action implemented by humanitarian agencies including NGOs, UN, the Red Cross as well as Governments. Sphere, as it is commonly known, ensures that humanitarian activities are based on agreed international standards and most importantly ensure that the human rights of people affected by disaster are respected.
The Sphere handbook has been used for ten years but was revised in 2011 to reflect the myriad changes in the aid environment over the decade, including greater recognition of local responders and their historical practices around disaster, an increased emphasis on accountability around aid spending, and more people living in areas vulnerable to disaster, especially in Asia and the Pacific.
Welcoming the visitors to the session, Deputy Secretary International Development Amanda Ellis said it was wonderful that so many representatives from various New Zealand agencies could attend,
“MFAT is working to ensure we are in sync with key partners to deliver disaster response programmes of an international standard. Bringing people together at the Sphere training is a great example of how we both build NZ INC response capability and strengthen our partnerships,” she said.
A Senior Policy officer in Pacific Division, Mike Ketchen, said the training provided an excellent introduction to the key principles underpinning emergency humanitarian response activities.
“It also provided a really useful guide to the practical components of emergency assistance by identifying minimum standards in the four life-saving humanitarian sectors - water, food, shelter, health,” he said.
In November 2011, MFAT used Sphere to respond to the water crisis in Tuvalu. Sphere proved invaluable in providing an internationally agreed standard that a joined up New Zealand response involving the Aid Programme, the New Zealand Defence Force, NGOs and the Red Cross could deliver on.
Find out more about Sphere here.