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Sphere governing bodies meet in Barcelona: Board signs off on Handbook 2018, General Assembly paves the way for expansion of Sphere membership

Sphere General Assembly’s decisions pave the way for an expansion of the Sphere community of purpose. Photo: Humanitarian practitioners participate in a Sphere Training of Trainers in the Dominican Republic.

The Sphere Executive Board convened for its biannual meeting on 8 May, hosted by Oxfam Intermón in Barcelona. The agenda included review and sign-off on the 2018 edition of the Sphere Handbook and a new application to join the Humanitarian Standards Partnership, as well as financial and administrative matters.

On the following day, the Sphere General Assembly held its first ordinary meeting since the organization’s transition to an independent NGO. The Assembly supported the development of Sphere’s new member-based structure by approving revised Statutes and bylaws and the membership offer.

Review and validation of the 2018 Sphere Handbook

Board members found that the Sphere secretariat had provided clear guidance to the process, focusing content production to ensure the 2018 edition is simple and understandable even by less-experienced field practitioners. They looked into the accessibility of the revised Handbook, for ease of use, relevance, and measurability. Both the revision process and the structure of the Handbook were approved unanimously.

The Board members reviewed the major new elements brought forward through consultations into the 2018 edition ,with new standards on the security of tenure, WASH in health facilities, palliative care, and an appendix on using markets to deliver assistance against the standards. Two of the Handbook chapters were recommended for further editing for clarity and length, again aligning with the intent of making the Handbook simpler, sharper, and clearly focused on response. The Board otherwise signed off on the content of the Handbook, which will move to its final production stages and launched by the end of the year.

Strengthening the Humanitarian Standards Partnership

The Board responded positively to a new application for membership in the Humanitarian Standards Partnership (HSP). In December 2017, a group of seven humanitarian agencies working to promote age and disability-inclusive humanitarian assistance requested to include the Humanitarian inclusion standards for older people and people with disabilities among the members of the Partnership. The seven agencies developed the standards as part of the Age and Disability Capacity Programme (ADCAP). The Board welcomed the new HSP member, stressing that the initiative will provide much needed guidance on an important area of humanitarian assistance.

Finances and management

The Barcelona meeting provided an opportunity for the Board to receive an update on the Sphere Secretariat’s recent activities. Board members received a report on Sphere’s first official audit as an independent organization, which took place in February and confirmed the solidity of Sphere’s financial procedures and position. They also noted a positive increase in multi-year funding. The Board unanimously approved the 2017 financial statements and the proposed reserve policy.

Sphere’s first ordinary General Assembly met in Barcelona on 9 May. All the General Assembly members were present, either in person or by proxy.

The Assembly approved edits to the Statutes, which were revised to reflect Sphere’s new bylaws. The bylaws provide guidance on the tasks and election procedures of Sphere’s governance bodies and on the criteria for different types of Sphere membership. A yearly membership fee scheme was also validated, allowing Sphere to generate essential funding for the running of the organization.Through these decisions, the Assembly laid the foundations for the development and expansion of Sphere’s membership structure in the years to come. A membership drive will begin in June.

The General Assembly also approved the 2017 annual report and accounts and the budget for 2018.