ABSTRACT

The first version of the Sphere Project’s “Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response” was published in 1998. The project was about defining “a minimum for survival.” The Sphere Handbook included many figures that were published well before the Sphere Project. The critique of humanitarianism was nourished by controversies among humanitarian organizations. The crisis in Goma was paradigmatic of the crisis of legitimacy affecting large aid organizations. The Sphere Project increased the meetings with donors, telephone appeals, and visits to international conferences. Humanitarian standards invent an immediate connection between a universalist ontology, supported by a higher body and outside of society and individuals, taken in isolation and decontextualized. The anti-Sphere coalition offered some counter propositions: A “Quality Hub” to develop new tools to evaluate the quality of humanitarian aid. The negotiations were neither cold nor dispassionate; they were, on the contrary – as Nicholas Stockton himself says – “furious.”