Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

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


The Sphere Handbook is the oldest initiative in the field of humanitarian standards. It has been field-tested over twenty years and regularly updated. The Sphere Handbook 2018 is the latest version. It is based on a rights-based approach, meaning people have the right to assistance, the right to life with dignity, the right to protection and security, and the right to fully participate in decisions related to their own recovery. MHPSS was integrated throughout the sectors. This means that by following SPHERE many aspects of CBPS are already integrated into programming with regard to protect people from harm. 

The handbook consists of both foundation chapters and technical chapters, with the former outlining the ethical, legal and practical basis for humanitarian response. They underpin all technical sectors and programmes. They describe commitments and processes to ensure a good quality humanitarian response, and encourage responders to be accountable to those affected by their actions. These chapters help the user apply the Minimum Standards more effectively in any context. Reading a technical chapter without also reading the foundation chapters risks missing essential elements of the standards. The foundations for instance include the Core Humanitarian Standards.

The technical chapters include minimum standards in key response sectors of WASH, food security and nutrition, shelter and settlement, and health. It should be considered, that in practice, humanitarian needs do not fall neatly into specific sectors.

Effective humanitarian response must address people’s needs holistically, and sectors should coordinate and collaborate with each other to do so. In the context of a protracted crisis, this may also expand beyond the humanitarian response with a need to work closely with development actors.

The Handbook contains cross-references to help make these links. Readers should familiarise themselves with all chapters to support a holistic response.


The SPHERE Standards, the Core Humanitarian Standards (CHS) and the Humanitarian Accountability Partnership (HAP) were all developed as a response to the common concern for international standards, quality and accountability. Read more about CHS and HAP on the pages below. 

SPHERE Handbook 2018 for download


The Core Humanitarian Standard on Quality and Accountability


The 2010 HAP Standard in Accountability and Quality Management