Setting Minimum Standards

Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Setting minimum standards in humanitarian response is necessary in order to ensure and guide humanitarian response agencies provide, physically sufficient, culturally appropriate, socially just and ethically right relief assistance to people affected by disasters. Minimum standards result from  a series experiential learning, feedback from communities affected by disasters, personal accounts of volunteers involved in providing relief and the urge of humanitarian agencies to provide just, adequate and appropriate humanitarian relief to the disaster affected people.

Ensuring minimum standards is however, not a noble gesture of the humanitarian agencies, but a realization of the duty to abide by  certain basic universal human rights. Further, universal minimum standards are essential to prevent whimsical/subjective/ ill informed/partial/ritualistic/inadequate provision of humanitarian relief that stands in between the genuine intention of donors who want to aid and the affected communities who are in need for assistance but don’t want to compromise on their dignity.  It’s however, important to note that, universal minimum standards can’t possibly be enforced in all locations and situations. The idea should be to promote certain minimum standards that can be flexible for adaptation, but should ensure adequate and dignified humanitarian assistance.

The Sphere Project: The sphere project works with the mission of “re-establishing the right of all people affected by disasters and to ensure their livelihoods are recognized and acted upon in ways that respect their voice and promote their dignity, livelihoods and security”. The Sphere Handbook, Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response, is one of the most widely known and internationally recognized sets of common principles and universal minimum standards in life-saving areas of humanitarian response.

Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP): The HAP was created to championing the rights and the dignity of disaster survivors by making  humanitarian action accountable to its intended beneficiaries through self-regulation, compliance verification and quality assurance certification.The HAP was created with the belief that “Non-government organizations exercise significant power in humanitarian crisis through their control over essential goods and services, such as food, medical aid and shelter. However, until recently, the “helping power” of emergency relief agencies has been fairly unregulated as few organizations formalized procedures to allow disaster survivors to participate in decisions about services or complain about poor practices”.

Making local sense of universal minimum standards: Identifying and relating with established national standards, conduct orientation meeting with policy makers and influential organizations, work as a team with local national organizations to adapt universal minimum standards to local needs and consult common people through various forums to make universal standards locally relevant without compromising in basic principle of human survival with dignity.

Key Message: Minimum standards in humanitarian response should not be a goal of humanitarian response. It should be a commitment, a culture and a conscious practice of humanitarian actors. The goal should be maximum standards, of course with a practical approach.

Disclaimer: This article is a reflection of author’s personal thoughts, and all rights reserved by SAFE CITIZEN.ORG


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