The Ecuadorian government reaffirmed the Sphere standards’ role as the foundation of the country’s risk management structures as it unveiled its recently updated National Disaster Response Plan (RESPONDE Ec).
In April 2016, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake hit the country, killing almost 700 people and leaving 700,000 more in need of humanitarian assistance. In the aftermath, the government’s Risk Management Secretariat initiated a revision to its response plans, aimed at harmonising the work of all actors under common procedures.
Ecuador has been referring to the Sphere standards as ministerial guidelines in case of disasters since 2011. However, RESPONDE Ec is now explicitly integrating humanitarian quality and accountability concerns into its national plan for the first time. The Sphere standards are formally recognised as the normative basis for humanitarian response in Ecuador, and the Sphere organisation as a focal point for work on disaster preparedness.
“The Sphere standards are used as references in the plan to define protection rights, principles of humanitarian action, and the technical actions to be implemented in case of a disaster”, explains Daniel Arteaga, Ecuadorian disaster management expert and long-time Sphere trainer who participated in the drafting of the Plan. “The standards also serve as parameters for monitoring and to assess compliance with the key actions indicated in the plan.”
Other sets of humanitarian standards also play a key role in RESPONDE Ec’s framework. The Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS Project), the Minimum Standards for Education (developed by INEE), and the SEEP Network’s Minimum Economic Recovery Standards (MERS) are listed as complementary tools to Sphere’s guidelines.
According to Alexandra Ocles Padilla, the current National Secretary of Risk Management, the new plan marks a ‘before’ and ‘after’ in Ecuador’s culture of disaster and emergency prevention, setting up the tools to save lives, meet humanitarian needs, and guarantee the rights of people affected by crisis. “Having the Sphere standards embedded in the national policy will certainly reduce operational complications for relief workers”, Daniel Arteaga adds. “This will allow for a much more effective humanitarian action.”