2011 edition of the Sphere Handbook: WHAT IS NEW?
The Sphere Project is an attempt by the operational agencies of the international humanitarian community to define common standards for the provision of assistance in a spirit of quality and accountability. But Sphere is not just a manual of humanitarian good practice. It is a statement about rights and duties and about the implications of the ‘right to life with dignity’ and a ‘right to humanitarian assistance’ for humanitarian practice. It is these aspects of rights and duties that are covered by the Humanitarian Charter. It sets the role of humanitarian agencies in a wider framework of roles and responsibilities (see 2 below) and articulates the moral and legal basis for the standards that follow. It is based on the belief that the provision of international humanitarian assistance and protection is not simply a charitable act or an expression of solidarity, but an obligation whose origins lie in the principle of humanity and the related humanitarian imperative. We all share a moral duty to assist those affected by disaster and armed conflict, and that duty is reflected (though not always clearly stated) in national and international law and practice. The Charter is a statement of shared belief by those humanitarian agencies that endorse Sphere and make a commitment to the Sphere ‘Minimum Standards’. They recognize that working towards reaching these standards will depend on a number of factors (like the political situation) that are beyond their control and their responsibility. But the Charter insists that the humanitarian imperative comes first and that in any given situation, the role of humanitarian agencies may be essential for the protection of life and dignity. Therefore, the Charter insists on respect for the necessary ‘humanitarian space’ so that this role can be played effectively.