Clinical Review ABC of conflict and disaster

Humanitarian assistance: standards, skills, training, and experience

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7501.1199 (Published 19 May 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:1199
  1. Marion Birch,
  2. Simon Miller

    Standards for humanitarian agencies

    The Sphere Project

    Those affected by catastrophe and conflicts often lose basic human rights. Recognising this, a group of humanitarian non-governmental organisations and the Red Cross movement launched the Sphere Project in 1997. The aim of this project was to improve the quality of assistance and enhance the accountability of the humanitarian system in disaster response by developing a set of universal minimum standards in core areas and a humanitarian charter.


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    Refugee camp in Darfur, Sudan, 1985. Refugees from the drought and conflict in Chad had been brought by truck from further up the border between Chad and Sudan before the rains came, so that they would not be cut off from outside aid during the rainy season

    The charter, based on international treaties and conventions, emphasises the right of people affected by disaster to life with dignity. It identifies the protection of this right as a quality measure of humanitarian work and one for which humanitarian actors bear responsibilities.

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    What does the Sphere Project cover?

    The Sphere Project was launched in response to concern about inconsistencies in aid provided to people affected by disaster, and the frequent lack of accountability of humanitarian agencies to their beneficiaries, their membership, and their donors. The project attempts to identify and define the rights of populations affected by disasters in order to facilitate effective planning and implementation of humanitarian relief.

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    Table 2

    People in Aid Code of Good Practice

    People in Aid: human resources management

    People in Aid was founded with two main aims—to highlight the importance of human resources management in the effective achievement of an organisation's mission, and to offer support to humanitarian and development agencies wishing to improve human resources management.

    After the Rwanda crisis, research showed that aid workers saw organisational and management issues as prime stressors in their work. From this research, the People in Aid Code of Good …

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