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Promoting Sphere humanitarian standards in Eastern Europe
This year the Humanitarian Leadership Academy has become a focal point for the Sphere standards in Poland. The Sphere standards is a primary humanitarian standards reference tool for national and international NGOs, UN agencies, governments, volunteers, and other humanitarian actors. We are proud to continue our mission of supporting local responders to prepare for and respond to crises and to empower practitioners to improve the quality and accountability of humanitarian assistance as a Sphere focal point.
The Sphere movement was started in 1997 by a group of humanitarian professionals aiming to improve the quality of humanitarian work during disaster response. They framed a Humanitarian Charter and identified a set of humanitarian standards – initially developed by non-governmental organisations, along with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement – to be applied in humanitarian response.
Sphere’s flagship publication, the Sphere Handbook, is one of the most widely known and internationally recognised sets of common principles and universal minimum standards in humanitarian response.
Our team in Poland conducts Sphere standards workshops on a regular basis. In May 2023, we traveled to Przemysl, a town in southeastern Poland near the Polish-Ukrainian border. With participants from Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania in attendance, the training was truly a regional event. The three-day workshop was hosted by the Ukrainian House, which played a critical role in the country’s response to the refugee crisis in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian House was founded in 2004, by a group of Poles and Ukrainians in Warsaw to support migrants coming to Poland. Since 2014, the main goal of the Ukrainian House is to help and support the Ukrainian community in Poland through informational, educational and cultural activities. After aggravation of the situation in Ukraine in February 2022, the Ukrainian House started to operate on a larger scale, and transformed into a crisis center, offering various types of support for refugees.
Sphere’s flagship publication, the Sphere Handbook, is one of the most widely known and internationally recognised sets of common principles and universal minimum standards in humanitarian response. It covers four technical areas of humanitarian response: Water supply, sanitation and hygiene promotion (WASH), Food security and nutrition, Shelter and settlement, and Health. Humanitarian standards are based on evidence, experience, and learning, and reflect accumulated best practice at a global level. They are revised regularly to incorporate developments across the sector.
The training is based on the critical experience of the people in the room. Participants engage in interactive exercises, group discussions, and exploring relevant case studies. The workshop is designed to share examples of their practice, address commonly encountered challenges, and apply Sphere standards to realistic scenarios. All the activities address cross-cutting issues integral to Sphere, such as protection, gender, age, and diversity. The training specifically highlights the risks of not taking into consideration the local community expertise.
Watch a video about the Sphere workshop in Przemysl
With the goal to support locally-led learning, our next step is to train local facilitators. This June, we have trained 16 trainers to conduct Sphere standards workshops in various languages of the region. A five-day Training of Trainers course aimed to upskill the responders from Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Moldova, and the Slovak Republic to spread Sphere standards for fellow humanitarians involved in the Ukraine crisis response and form a network of experts in the sector.
Take free online courses to learn about Humanitarian Standards and how to apply them in your practice.