The launch of an Arabic version of the 2011 Sphere Handbook, which sets out best practice in the delivery of humanitarian aid, comes at a time of major political, economic and social change across the Middle East and should help streamline humanitarian responses, say aid officials in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The Sphere Handbook has informed our response to various disaster situations, most recently those in Yemen, Pakistan and Libya,” Mohammed Khalifa Alqamzi, secretary-general of the UAE Red Crescent Authority, said during the launch in Abu Dhabi on 23 June.
The new Sphere Handbook is also available in Russian, Spanish, French and German.
During the launch of the revised English edition of the handbook in New York in April 2011, Valerie Amos, UN under-secretary-general and emergency relief coordinator, said: “The Sphere standards are the benchmark for ensuring humane and fair humanitarian assistance to people in need around the world… "I hope that all organizations that provide humanitarian aid will become familiar with the standards and use them," she added.
Speaking at the Arabic launch, Sultan Al Shamsi, executive director of the UAE Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid, said it was important for Arab donor organizations to apply agreed minimum standards in their relief operations. “[Arab] aid workers need to be aware of the mechanisms to deliver aid and to be accountable according to these internationally accepted standards,” he added.
According to Khaled Khalifa, head of IRIN Dubai office and Sphere trainer, the “lack of specialized humanitarian studies in Arabic represents a major challenge for Arab aid workers who strive to embrace new theories and practices in the field. The Arabic edition of the Sphere handbook is a good tool which contributes to bridging this gap.”
The Humanitarian Charter, which describes core principles that should govern humanitarian action, is the foundation of the handbook. The core principles include avoiding exposing vulnerable people to further harm as a result of response, ensuring their access to impartial aid, protecting them from physical and psychological harm due to violence or coercion and assisting them to claim their rights and recover from abuse.