Islamabad - Consultations for upgrading the international standards over humanitarian works has started in Pakistan, which will be shared with all government agencies and NGOs involved in relief, rescue and rehabilitation works.

The consultation held here was addressed by Christine Knudsen, Executive Director ‘Sphere’ – the international group working to formulate the standards for humanitarian works.

She highlighted that it has been observed that aid workers – operating in their own manner at times resulted in poor performance instead of providing the good, therefore, uniform set of standards would help bridge this gap.

“Pakistan is among the high risk disaster countries and there has to be a connecting code while working with civil – military alliance, government – private aid groups and even private – private aid workers lack coordination as all work according to their standards,” she highlighted.

The last Sphere standards were upgraded in 2010 and the ongoing consultations are being held in 50 countries which will be reflected in the next standards to be published in 2018.

She said that the humanitarian standards also help fight social discrimination or exploitation during aid work and proper formatting of work helps brings transparency in the aid programme. 

The core value of these standards was – right to life with dignity and apart from providing health, nutrition, food security, water and sanitation needs in any humanitarian crises, the Sphere standards even has a chapter over guidelines to communicate with non-state actors and militants.

“Besides in most of the humanitarian efforts the safety and hazardous exposure of aid workers are usually ignored – the standards have a chapter over the preventive measures to be adopted by aid workers,” Christine Knudsen said, adding, “This was noted during the Ebola crises.”

The consultation was participated by officials from NDMA, PDMA, various provincial departments, aid agencies and NGOs, and it was noted that in crises preventive vaccines should be stored by the authorities with the start of relief and rescue work to avoid spread of any endemic like situation in later stage.

The Sphere standards have been adopted by many countries including Philippines and Indonesia.

The Sphere standards are available in Urdu and Pashto too and several disaster management authorities in the country were seriously taking guidelines from it.

“If we look at the standards of humanitarian efforts between now and at the time of 2005 earthquake, there is a massive improvement in the approach of NGOs and even that of the authorities,” said Farrukh Marvin, Regional Representative, Community World Service (CWS) Asia.

CWS is the implementation partner of Sphere in Pakistan is working closely with NDMA and PDMA and other non government agencies involved in humanitarian works.

He said that PDMAs of Sindh and the KP have expanded the training base over the international standards in humanitarian works to tehsil level too.

“But we need to involve all actors in the field,” he added.

The international humanitarian standards will soon be floated at mobile based applications too for support of aid workers.