For the first time since the creation of the network, Sphere’s gathered from across four continents for a global meeting in Bangkok, Thailand. The Global Sphere Focal Points Forum, which took place on 7-9 November, was organized in collaboration with Sphere’s regional partner Community World Service Asia (CWSA).
The Forum provided the occasion for 21 Sphere Focal Points and trainers to discuss using humanitarian standards in widely varied contexts, consider training approaches, and ways to strengthen the Sphere network. During the three-day meeting, the participants reviewed the second draft of the Sphere Handbook 2018, presented their plans for dissemination and training activities in the upcoming months, and discussed means to increase collaboration both with the Sphere secretariat in Geneva and with Focal Points in other regions.
“Participating in the Forum here in Bangkok is a great opportunity to meet and interact with the other Focal Points, to collaborate in the revision of the 2018 Handbook, and to contribute to the transition of Sphere towards a more solid and proactive organisation”, commented Martin Villarroel Garcia, Sphere’s Focal Point in Bolivia. “Sphere is positioning itself as a network that greatly reinforces local capacities and helps achieve great resilience among vulnerable populations.”
Focal Points shared good practices and lessons learned, drawing upon their experience implementing humanitarian standards in local contexts. Representatives from Chile and the Philippines presented the process that recently led to . Focal Points from India, Bangladesh, Senegal, and Ethiopia presented challenges and achievements emerging from their local advocacy efforts.
“My experience with Sphere started in 2004, when we began disseminating the Handbook in the wake of the floods that hit Eastern Bolivia,” said Magdalena Medrano Velasco, Departmental Secretary for the Environment in the Bolivian prefecture of Cochabamba and long-time Sphere trainer. “The impact was incredible. For the first time, we had a tool to explain how to ensure affected people’s right to dignity, assistance, and protection (…). Today, the local population is looked after by the government, international aid actors, and local civil society on the basis of those same standards.”
Participants in the meeting also learned new methodologies during a design thinking session, a collaborative exercise on how to ‘think outside the box’ in tackling daily concerns.
By the time the Forum came to a close, all participants voiced a shared enthusiasm and commitment to working together, along with a greater sense of belonging to an emerging community of purpose.
“This meeting has been fantastic,” commented Benson Maina – Sphere Focal Point in Kenya and member of the Nairobi-based Inter-Agency Working Group – as the Forum wrapped up on its last day. “I got to know my colleagues not only in Africa but also in other countries (…). It’s easier now to engage with Sphere and with Focal Points in my region. An amazing platform!”
Focal Points, who may be representatives of an organization or individuals acting in their own capacity, actively promote and advocate for the implementation of the integrated Sphere standards and humanitarian principles within their country or region. Sphere currently counts on a total of 52 active Focal Points spanning 48 countries.