On 28 April 2017, leading NGO experts of the SPHERE Handbook, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, met to discuss and comment on the revision of the latest handbook. The participants from Mainland China convened at the Disaster response drilling camp in Sichuan, Beichuan County, an area severely affected by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The consultation was facilitated by the Amity Foundation and organized by the Chunbei Disaster Response Alliance.
The participants of the consultation discussed humanitarian response standards until late night
After the consultation, the disaster relief practitioners, trainers and officers, who have been working with the Sphere standards in Mainland China for many years, relayed their local experiences to the international consultation. “In general, the handbook is based on the vulnerability of affected communities and their rights are primarily stressed. But actually the agency of people is usually stronger than estimated. If the second draft can think more on the role and assets of affected communities, the articulation and standards setting may turn up with a little different style,” comments Xie Ying, Senior Executive of Amity's Geneva office. In addition, the Chinese context was discussed, especially regarding shelter standards. It was stressed that there should be distinctions between mountainous areas and the flatlands. It was also suggested that mental health standards and the new technologies should be taken more strongly into account.
The SPHERE Project is a voluntary initiative and global network, established in 1997 to improve the quality of humanitarian assistance. The SPHERE Handbook is one of the most widely known and internationally recognized sets of common principles for standards in life-saving areas of humanitarian response. As of today, the guidelines have been revised, and the new Handbook edition will be launched in early 2018. Consequently, teams worldwide are now revising guidelines and exchanging experiences to enhance the SPHERE Handbook. “We hope to establish a SPHERE focal point in the future. We'd like to enhance our connection with the Asian Pacific regional focal point and facilitate more exchange with our Asian peer organization,” says Xie Ying.