The Sphere Handbook: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

The Sphere Handbook is marking its 20th anniversary with the publication of this fourth edition. It is the result of an intense year-long mobilisation of humanitarian actors around the globe and reflects two decades of experience using the standards in front-line operations, policy development and advocacy to uphold principled quality and accountability.

With a clear, rights-based framework, the Handbook builds on the legal and ethical foundations of humanitarianism with pragmatic guidance, global good practice and compiled evidence to support humanitarian staff wherever they work.

Sphere holds a unique place in the sector and in the constantly evolving humanitarian landscape. This edition was clearly informed by the international commitments made at the first World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other global initiatives.

However, even as the policy landscape continues to evolve, we know that the immediate survival needs of people in conflict and disasters remain largely the same wherever crisis strikes. Sphere supports and contributes to global and local policy processes by recalling the fundamental necessity to provide accountable assistance to help people survive, recover and rebuild their lives with dignity.

Sphere’s strength and global reach lie in the fact that it belongs to all. This sense of ownership is renewed every few years, when the standards are reviewed and revised by the users themselves. It is a moment when we collectively restate our commitments and agree on improved action to make sure that practitioners have the best information available to them wherever they may work. This makes Sphere a core reference and a reminder of the fundamental importance of human dignity and the right of people to participate fully in decisions that affect them.

Sphere is one of the foundations of humanitarian work. It is the starting point for new humanitarian actors and a standing reference for experienced staff, providing guidance on priority actions and where to find more detailed technical information. Our standards partners provide even more support in specific sectors beyond Sphere to help people recover and thrive.

This edition benefits from the input of thousands of people working with more than 450 organisations in at least 65 countries around the world. The global reach reflects experience from diverse contexts, extraordinary challenges and different types of actors.

These standards would not exist without the unwavering commitment of so many of you. You have the thanks of our sector for your contributions during the revision and, indeed, over the past two decades. We look forward to continuing this important work and learning together with you as you use this Handbook