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Humanitarian standards

What are humanitarian standards?

People affected by disaster or conflict have the right to receive protection and assistance and to ensure the basic conditions for life with dignity. Humanitarian standards are statements which describe the sets of actions needed so that crisis-affected people can enjoy this right.

Humanitarian standards are developed by humanitarian practitioners with specific areas of expertise and are formulated based on evidence, experience, and learning. The standards are developed by consensus and reflect accumulated best practice at a global level. They are revised regularly to incorporate developments across the sector.

Humanitarian standards are a useful resource for practitioners to plan, implement, and evaluate humanitarian response. They provide a strong basis to advocate for the rights of crisis-affected communities. By applying them in preparedness and response operations, humanitarian agencies and practitioners make a commitment to quality and make themselves accountable to the populations they serve.


What are the Sphere standards?

The Sphere standards are a set of principles and minimum humanitarian standards in four technical areas of humanitarian response:

  • Water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH)
  • Food security and nutrition
  • Shelter and settlement
  • Health

Founded in 1997, Sphere is one of the earliest initiatives aiming to improve the quality and accountability of the humanitarian sector. Today, the Sphere standards are the most widely recognized humanitarian standards across the globe. They are used as reference tools by humanitarian agencies, advocacy groups, governments, and donors.

The Sphere standards and their foundational documents (the Humanitarian Charter, the Protection Principles, and the Core Humanitarian Standard) are collected in the Sphere Handbook.


What is the Humanitarian Standards Partnership?

Humanitarian Standards Partnership

The HSP is a network of standard-setting initiatives and organisations. It supports quality and accountability in humanitarian action by promoting the development and cross sectoral use of standards.

Please visit the HSP website for information and resources from the HSP and its partners.

The HSP is an initiative of Sphere and is hosted and managed by the Sphere Secretariat.