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Module 21. and in humanitarian response . Oct-05-11. 1. Be familiar with basic principles of standards and accountability Know some universal standards for humanitarian response Be familiar with some inter-agency accountability initiatives being implemented

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learning objectives
Be familiar with basic principles of standards and accountability

Know some universal standards for humanitarian response

Be familiar with some inter-agency accountability initiatives being implemented

Be familiar with the difference between SPHERE minimum standards, key actions, key indicators and guidance notes

Learning objectives



  • Standards and Accountability are linked.
  • Standards establish the thresholds or levels required to achieve the necessary quality for a particular good or service.
  • Accountability* is about being responsible to someone that certain standards have been achieved.
various standards
Legal standards – laws/rights

Principle-based, voluntary standards – codes of conduct

Technical standards – e.g. SPHERE standards

Various standards



various standards1
Legal standards – laws/rights

Principle-based, voluntary standards – codes of conduct

Technical standards – e.g. SPHERE standards

Various standards



legal standards some examples
Legal standards - some examples
  • International Human Rights Law (IHRL)

international law that describes the rights of all persons and the obligations (or duties) of States.

  • Within this e.g.
    • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
    • the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women
    • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

(includes ‘right to food’!)

  • the Universal Declaration

of Human Rights of 1948:

for all peoples and all nations, Article 25.1 states that

“…everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

the right to food
The right to food
  • All human beings have the right to adequate food and the right to be free from hunger.
  • Such right cannot be suspended even in emergencies (emergencies are sometimes used for justifying suspension of some rights)
  • The right to food is not a right to be fed, but primarily the right to feed oneself with dignity.

Legal standards- Human rights law

The Right to Food requires States to provide an enabling environment in which people can use their full potential to produce or procure adequate food for themselves and their families. However, when people are not able to feed themselves with their own means, for instance because of an armed conflict, natural disaster or because they are in detention, the State has a responsibility to provide food directly.

National legislation on foods and supplements, GMOs, labelling and marketing of breast milk substitutes are all examples of relevant national legal standards that can guide a nutrition-focused humanitarian response.
various standards2
Various standards

Legal standards – laws/rights

Principle-based, voluntary standards – codes of conduct

Technical standards – e.g. SPHERE standards



the red cross ngo code of conduct

10 Principle Commitments of the Code of Conduct

  • The humanitarian imperative comes first;
  • Aid is given regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the
  • recipients and without adverse distinction of any kind. Aid priorities
  • are calculated on the basis of need alone;
  • Aid will not be used to further a particular political or religious
  • standpoint;
  • We shall endeavor not to be used as an instrument of government
  • foreign policy;
  • We shall respect culture and custom;
  • We shall attempt to build disaster response on local capacities;
  • Ways shall be found to involve program beneficiaries in the management
  • of relief aid;
  • Relief aid must strive to reduce vulnerabilities to future disaster
  • as well as meeting basic needs;
  • We hold ourselves accountable to both those we seek to assist and those
  • from whom we accept resources;
  • In our information, publicity and advertising activities, we shall
  • recognize disaster victims as dignified human beings, not hopeless
  • objects.
The Red Cross/NGO Code of Conduct






the humanitarian imperative
Everyone has the

right to receive


Assistance in times

of disaster.

The humanitarian imperative



additionally the code of conduct has values
Humanity: to prevent and alleviate human suffering wherever it may be found

Impartiality: no discrimination – relieve suffering guided by needs

Independence: maintain autonomy to be able to act in accordance with the principles

Neutrality: not taking sides in hostilities

Additionally the Code of Conduct has values



code of conduct
In 2007, > 400 organizations signed up to the Code of Conduct but there is no agency/body who can hold signatories to account…Code of Conduct




The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes

The International Code = World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolution (1981) + subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions

  • Protection from commercial influences on infant feeding choices.
  • It does not ban the use of infant formula or bottles.
  • Controls how breast milk substitutes, bottles and teats are produced, packaged, promoted and provided.
  • The Code prohibits free/low cost supplies in any part of the health care system.
  • Governments encouraged to take legislative measures.
  • Adoption and adherence to the Code is a minimum requirement worldwide.
  • Upholding the Code is even more critical in emergencies.
various standards3
Legal standards – laws/rights

Principle-based, voluntary standards – codes of conduct

Technical standards – e.g. SPHERE standards

Various standards



the sphere project
General concern with quality and accountability has been ongoing

Humanitarian practice from past no longer sufficient

(complexity and number of disasters increasing, changing nature of humanitarian community and increasing diversity, increasing number of actors)

Post-Rwanda 1994: Multi-donor evaluation “Unnecessary deaths”

The Sphere Project



the sphere project1
Aims to improve quality and accountability

Launched in 1997 by group of NGOs and Red Cross

SPHERE project’s Handbook begins with a Humanitarian Charter (mix of ethical/legal rights/obligations/beliefs)

The Sphere Project



the sphere handbook
2004 Sphere Handbook

2011 revised Sphere Handbook Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

The Humanitarian Charter - three principles:

The right to life with dignity

The right to protection and security

The right to receive humanitarian assistance

The Sphere Handbook



sphere 2011
The handbook is structured around six minimum standards common to all sectors:

Community-centered humanitarian response

Coordination and partnership


Analysis and design

Performance, transparency and learning

Aid worker performance

Sphere 2011



sphere 20111
One chapter is dedicated to Food and Nutrition Security

Assessment and analysis

Infant and young child feeding

Food assistance

Food security and livelihoods

Treatment of acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies

Other chapters on standards from other sectors (which are directly related to the underlying causes of malnutrition): water, sanitation and hygiene promotion; shelter/settlement, non-food items; and health services.

Sphere 2011



structure of 2011 sphere handbook
Each section includes:

Minimum standards: qualitative, specifying minimum levels to be attained in the provision of food security, nutrition and food assistance responses

Key actions: activities needed to achieve standards

Core indicators: signals that show whether a minimum standard has been attained (quality/quantity)

Guidance notes: specific points to consider, guidance on tackling practical difficulties, advice on priority issues, dilemmas, controversies, gaps in knowledge

Structure of 2011 Sphere handbook



Appendix 1: Food security and livelihoods

assessment checklists

Appendix 2: Seed security assessment checklist

Appendix 3: Nutrition assessment checklist

Appendix 4: Measuring acute malnutrition

Appendix 5: Measures of the public health significance of micronutrient deficiencies

Appendix 6: Nutritional requirements



key actions
Include in-patient care, out-patient care, referral and community mobilisation components interventions for the management of SAM (see guidance note X)

Provide nutritional and medical care according to nationally and internationally recognised guidelines for the management of SAM. (see guidance notes X and Y).

Investigate and act on causes of default and non-response or an increase in deaths (see guidance notes X, Y and Z).

Key Actions




core indicators
More than 90% of the target population is within <1 day’s return walk (including time for treatment) of the programme site

Coverage is >50% in rural areas, >70% in urban areas and >90% in camp situations (see guidance note X).

The proportion of discharges from therapeutic care who have died is <10%, recovered is >75% and defaulted is <15% (see guidance note Y).

Core Indicators




SPHERE Standards

Focus on response phase but be alert to transition and recovery: (Some standards will have some indicators which will look at the longer term).

Used for M&E of nutrition programmes as proposing minimum standards for programme performance.

Often used as a tool in evaluations of humanitarian response – can highlight gaps

To some extent universal, BUT indicators need adjustment on an emergency-specific basis.

Achieving the standards may also require long periods of time

In what contexts standards and core indicators cannot be met



constraining factors include
Insecurity or denial of access


Lack of staff

Cultural factors


Logistical constraints

Lack of finance


If core indicators are not met, identify and understand the reasons why and consider alternative strategies

Constraining factors include



No body or agency has overall responsibility for technical standards in NiE response

Application of minimum standards can create differences in standards of living of emergency-affected and surrounding populations

Lack of funds restrict delivery of humanitarian assistance

Accountability to whom?




key messages
Standards may be: legal, based on principles and/or voluntary or technical.

Everyone has the right to adequate food and to be free from hunger.

Everyone also has the right to receive humanitarian assistance in times of disaster. This is known as the humanitarian imperative.

The humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality provide a principle-based foundation for nutrition in emergencies.

The Code of Conduct sets out ten principles to guide humanitarian action.

The Sphere project’s Humanitarian Charter reaffirms that all people affected by disaster and conflict have a right to life with dignity; the right to receive humanitarian assistance; and the right to protection and security. However, there is currently no incentive, or obligation for humanitarian agencies to be accountable to affected communities, other than a voluntary commitment to do so.

The Sphere standards specify the minimum acceptable levels to be attained in a humanitarian response. The Food Security and Nutrition standards cover assessment, infant and young child feeding, management of acute malnutrition and food security (food transfers, cash transfers and livelihoods).

One of the main unresolved issues in relation to standards and accountability is that there is no body with overall responsibility for technical standards in nutrition in emergency response.

Key messages