By Cassie Dummett (*)
Humanitarian standards are exactly what allows people affected by crisis to hold the humanitarian community to account. And it is important for all of us to make sure we use these standards in an integrated and intelligent way.
When I managed a transitional shelter programme in the Haiyan response, I used the Sphere standards to ensure an adequate, safe and durable shelter for communities affected by the typhoon. And I also used the Minimum Standards for Economic Recovery to help decide the potential for implementing cash and vouchers programmes and to identify the market space for carpenters and masons trained in disaster-resilient construction techniques. In the Kashmir earthquake response I used Sphere and the INEE standards on education.In Bangladesh I used Sphere and LEGS for livestock voucher programming.
My own experience taught me that adherence to standards increases the quality of aid delivery and the accountability of humanitarian organisations. But I also saw the challenges: it is hard to know which standards to turn to, and the tendency is to use what you’re already familiar with. This is borne out by evidence: humanitarian managers are most familiar with Sphere, while the specialists know their technical standards.
The Global Humanitarian Standards Partnership is made of Sphere and its Companion Standards. They complement each other and provide evidence-based resources in nine important areas of humanitarian response: water and sanitation, shelter, food security and nutrition, health (Sphere), education (INEE), child protection (CPMS), economic recovery (MERS), livestock (LEGS) and market analysis (CaLP).
As Coordinator of the GHSP, I am excited to be working with these six leading standards-setting initiatives as they deepen their collaboration to jointly promote use of humanitarian standards including the shared foundations consisting of the Humanitarian Charter, Protection Principles and Core Humanitarian Standard.
My job is to make it easier to access the right standards at the right time. Joint outreach will increase awareness of the standards and of the cross-linkages between them. The aim is for practitioners to become ever more familiar with humanitarian standards and to better use them in their work.
As we prepare for and respond to crises, let us use the standards in an integrated way. Like our humanitarian response, our use of standards should be timely, appropriate and effective.
(*) Coordinator of the Global Humanitarian Standards Partnership.