New Sphere Standards for Food Security, Nutrition and Food Aid
Summary of published paper1
Selling rice in Bo Market, Sierra Leone.
An article in Disasters examines the recent revision of the Sphere Minimum Standards in disaster response relating to Food Security, Nutrition and Food Aid.
The new standards on Food Security reflect the importance of guaranteeing key food security elements, i.e. access to adequate food through own food production or other sources of entitlement, stability of food supply and availability through local markets, nutritional adequacy, cultural acceptability and adequate quality of food assistance (see box 1).
The article also describes how the revision attempted to incorporate the principles of the Humanitarian Charter, as well as relevant human rights principles and values into the Sphere Minimum Standards. The initial aim of the revision was to ensure that the standards better reflected the principles embodied in the Humanitarian Charter. This was later broadened to ensure that key legal standards and principles from human rights and humanitarian law were considered and also incorporated, in part to fill the 'protection gap' within the existing standards. For example, in the food aid chapter it states "Monitoring and evaluation: at community level, random visits to households receiving food aid can help to ascertain the acceptability and usefulness of the ration, and also to identify people who meet the selection criteria but who are not receiving food aid. Such visits can also ascertain if extra food is being received and where it is coming from (e.g. as a result of commandeering, recruitment or exploitation, sexual or otherwise (p.171)".
In relation to the food security, nutrition and food aid standards, it was agreed by participants in the revision process that the human right to adequate food and freedom from hunger should be incorporated. In relation to more general principles underlying the Humanitarian Charter, itself drawn largely from human rights and humanitarian law, it was agreed that there was a need to strengthen 'protection' elements within the standards and a need to incorporate the basic principles of the right to life with dignity, nondiscrimination, impartiality and participation (see new food security standard 1 above), as well as to explore the relevance of the concept of the progressive realisation of the right to food.
The questions raised in linking rights to operational standards required thought, on the one hand, about whether the technical standards reflected a deep understanding of the values expressed within the legal instruments, and whether the existing standards were adequate in relation to those legal rights. On the other hand, it also required reflection on how operational standards like Sphere could give concrete content to human rights, such as the right to food and the right to be free from hunger. However, the authors acknowledge that there remain challenges in examining what a rights-based approach will mean in terms of the role of humanitarian agencies as duty-bearers of rights, given that the primary responsibility rests with state governments. It will also require reflection on the modes and mechanisms of accountability that are brought to bear in ensuring the implementation of the Minimum Standards.
The authors conclude that it will be important to evaluate how meaningful the rights basis of Sphere is to users of the hand-book and how that affects actions and decisions in the midst of humanitarian crisis.
The initial aim of the revision was to ensure that the standards better reflected the principles embodied in the Humanitarian Charter. This was later broadened to ensure that key legal standards and principles from human rights and humanitarian law were considered and also incorporated, in part to fill the 'protection gap' within the existing standards.
'The authors acknowledge that there remain challenges in examining what a rights-based approach will mean in terms of the role of humanitarian agencies as dutybearers of rights, given that the primary responsibility rests with state governments.'
Box 1: Minimum Standards on Food Security, Nutrition and Food Aid, some examples:
Assessment and analysis standard 1: Food Security
Where people are at risk of food insecurity, programme decisions are based on a demonstrated understanding of how they normally access food, the impact of the disaster on current and future food security, and hence the most appropriate response.
Food security standard 1: General food security
People have access to adequate and appropriate food and non-food items in a manner that ensures their survival, prevents erosion of assets and upholds their dignity.
Food Security standard 2: Primary production
Primary production mechanisms are protected and supported.
Food Security standard 3: Income and employment
Where income generation and employment are feasible livelihood strategies, people have access to appropriate income-earning opportunities, which generate fair remuneration and contribute towards food security without jeopardising the resources on which livelihoods are based.
Food security standard 4: Access to markets
People's safe access to market goods and services as producers, consumers and traders is protected and promoted.
1Young. H et al (2004): Linking Rights and Standards: The Process of Developing 'Rights-based' Minimum Standards on Food Security, Nutrition and Food Aid. Disasters, 2004, 28 (2): pp 142-159
More like this
FEX: Can Sphere be Used in Complex Emergencies?
Summary of published paper1 A U.S Airborne Infantry soldier patrols along Kosovo's border with Macedonia The Sphere Project (consisting of both the Humanitarian Charter and...
FEX: The right to nutrition
Summary of unpublished paper Urban Jonsson, (the UNICEF regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa) presented a paper on 'The Right to Nutritional Status in Conflict...
FEX: 2011 Edition of the Sphere Handbook Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response
Farmers association level consultation at Chuko, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNPR) province, Ethiopia, August 2009 By Susan Thurstans, Paul Turnbull, Devrig...
FEX: What is Livelihoods Programming? (Special Supplement 3)
2.1 Livelihoods principles and the livelihoods framework The livelihoods principles and framework form the basis of all livelihoods programming. The fundamental principles of...
FEX: International Legal Consequences of the Conflict in Syria
By Natasha Harrington Natasha is a barrister (a member of the English Bar). She is currently working in Eversheds law firms' public international law and international...
FEX: Sphere Project: handbook revision (2002 – 2003)
Since the launching of the first edition of the Sphere handbook (2000), over 25,000 volumes have been sold and the handbook has been translated into 15 languages (eight...
FEX: Food security: minimum standards to be included into Sphere
Oxfam GB organised an inter-agency workshop on minimum standards in Food Security, which was held at St Hilda's college in Oxford between the 2-3rd July 2001. The workshop was...
FEX: The application of minimum standards during crisis - A practitioner ’s perspective, southern Sudan 1998/9
By Stephanie Maxwell Stephanie Maxwell worked as the medical co-ordinator for Medicines Sans Frontiers Holland (MSFH) between May '97 and March '99, and as programme manager...
FEX: Inter-Agency Standing Committee endorses Sphere
In July 1997, the Sphere Project was launched by a group of humanitarian agencies. This project sought to develop a set of universal minimum standards in core areas of...
FEX: A Review of the advances and challenges in nutrition in conflicts and crises over the last 20 years
Abbreviated version of unpublished paper Food distribution at the ICRC kitchen in Tonj. By Frances Mason and Anna Taylor This paper is a shortened version of the complete...
FEX: Sphere Project
Sphere Project It's great to have the opportunity, in this issue of Field Exchange, to bring to your attention an NGO endeavour aiming to improve the quality of emergency...
en-net: International Course on Rights-based approach to food and nutrition security: fellowships available
The Food and Nutrition Security Training programme of the Centre for Development Innovation - Wageningen UR is pleased to announce the organisation of the ‘International...
FEX: References for Special Supplement 3
Beatrice, a beneficiary of the CRS seed voucher scheme in Burundi 1. Abdulai A., Barret, C., Hoddinott, J. (2004, June). Does food aid really have disincentive effects? new...
FEX: Derivation of nutrient requirements for disaster-affected populations - Sphere Project 2011
Summary of research1 Location: Global What we know: The Sphere Handbook defines minimum standards and indicators for assessing humanitarian responses, including food and...
FEX: SCN Symposium: ‘Nutrition in the context of crisis and conflict’
The ACC/Sub Committee on Nutrition (The UN System's Forum for Nutrition) 29th Session hosted a one day symposium on 'Nutrition in the Context of Crisis and Conflict' in Berlin,...
en-net: UNICEF is looking for a Nutrition Cluster/Sector Coordinator in Niger
Location: Niamey, Niger Position: P4/TA Opening Time: Tue May 16 14:05:00 UTC+0100 2017 Closing Time: Tue May 30 23:55:00 UTC+0100 2017 UNICEF works in 190 countries and...
en-net: Revising the nutrition component of the Sphere Handbook
The below topic is raised by Susan Thurstans, Save the Children UK, emergency response personnel for nutrition and nutrition Focal Point for the revision of the Sphere Handbook...
FEX: Global survey of the implementation of UNHCR’s Policy on Refugee Protection and Solutions in Urban Areas
Summary of review1 The advent of the 2009 Urban Refugee Policy (see Box 1) definitively changed UNHCR’s approach to working with urban refugees and established clear...
FEX: Evaluation of the Impact of the ACF Therapeutic Feeding Programme in Burundi
ACF and ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Office) undertook a joint evaluation of the ACF therapeutic feeding programme in Burundi in November 1998. The nature of the...
FEX: Fighting hunger on all fronts: AAH speak out in a new publication
Action Against Hunger (AAH) discuss their experiences of humanitarian interventions aimed at eliminating or preventing hunger in the newly published report: The Geopolitics of...
Reference this page
New Sphere Standards for Food Security, Nutrition and Food Aid. Field Exchange 23, November 2004. p7. www.ennonline.net/fex/23/newsphere