The Three Pillars of the Sphere Handbook

The second report on the series of the Sphere Handbook deals with questions that help to put together the ethical and legal framework under which organizations involved in humanitarian responses to crises take shelter. The documents help the humanitarian agents to define their own responsibilities, develop performance indicators and procedures, and be accountable to donors, governments, impacted communities, other organizations involved in the work, and also internally.

Since its creation, the Sphere Handbook has had the support pillars of the Humanitarian Charter, the Principles of Protection, and the Essential Humanitarian Standard. Together, they are the essence of the actions defended by the Sphere.

Manual Esfera - diagrama

Humanitarian Charter

The document is the cornerstone of the handbook, and is based on ethical and legal principles (such as the United Nations Charter; the Declaration of Human Rights; the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights; the Refugee Statute; among other hundreds of regional treaties) that will guide the actions of organizations in humanitarian responses.

The Humanitarian Charter is the basis of the commitment made by humanitarian organizations that are part of or share the same concepts as the Sphere and an invitation to all those involved in humanitarian actions to adopt these principles. Among the common principles, rights, and obligations there are:

  • the right to live with dignity;
  • the right to receive humanitarian assistance;
  • the right to protection and security.

Principles of Protection

So that the humanitarian response may be efficient, the Handbook lists four principles that are applied to all humanitarian actions and all humanitarian agents:

  • Strengthen the security, the dignity, and the rights of people, and avoid exposing them to injury.

  • Guarantee that people may have access to assistance according to their needs and without discrimination.

  • Help people to recover from the physical and psychological effects of real violence or threat of violence, coercion, or deliberate deprivation.

  • Help people reclaim their rights.

Essential Humanitarian Standard

The Essential Humanitarian Standard, in turn, refers to the quality and the responsibility that people and organizations involved in the humanitarian response can – and must – adopt to bring quality and effectiveness to the care they give to victims of crises and conflicts. In all, there are nine commitments, based on principles of humanity, impartiality, independence, and neutrality. The standard also provides methods to facilitate accountability to communities and individuals affected by a humanitarian crisis. (see Chart)


1 – The help is adjusted to the needs of the people and communities affected.

2 – The humanitarian response is effective and provided at the right time.

3 – The humanitarian response cannot be harmful.

4 – The humanitarian response is based on the participation and feedback of the communities and people affected.

5 – Complaints are well received and managed.

6 – The humanitarian response is coordinated and complementary.

7 – Organizations are in a constant learning process to improve their assistance to the communities and people affected.

8 – Employees and volunteers of the organizations have the support to do their jobs efficiently and competently.

9 – Resources are managed and used responsibly and ethically for the proposed objectives.

Humanitarian Missions

The set of guidelines, techniques and teachings listed in the Sphere Handbook make up a framework of actions that face the need to adopt bold and transformative measures to meet the demands of the populations impacted by crises and conflicts around the world. The Fraternity – International Humanitarian Federation (FIHF) carried out 23 national and international humanitarian missions. The most challenging has been the Venezuelan crisis, which has triggered the greatest exodus in recent history in Latin America. The UN estimates that more than 4.7 million Venezuelans have left the country.

A good many of those people seek refuge in Brazil, where the Fraternity – International Humanitarian Federation (FIHF) works in partnership with the UNHCR to alleviate the suffering of Venezuelan citizens. Since January, Brazil has become the country with the largest number of Venezuelans with legal refugee status in Latin America, in an action in which the National Committee for Refugees (NCR) recognizes a total of 37,000 people in this situation. It sounds like a lot, but the numbers tend to be even higher. Brazilian authorities estimate that about 264,000 Venezuelans currently live in the country. In addition, 500 Venezuelans cross the border with Brazil every day in the State of Roraima.