In the humanitarian sector, recommendations and guidelines provide the basis for training and development and in planning and delivering psychosocial sport programmes in disaster response. Practitioners should be aware of a number of international instruments in humanitarian relief.

With specific reference to sport and games, the Council of Europe developed recommendations in 2003 on the contribution of sport to alleviating the consequences of humanitarian disasters: “Ballons rouges.” Furthermore, leading sports organisations and international actors gathered to discuss the response from the world of sport to the tsunami in South East Asia in 2004 and have begun dialogue on avenues for future cooperation.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement developed a Code of Conduct in 1997 which outlines ten ethical standards in humanitarian relief. The code is voluntary and has since been signed by over 400 organisations committing to adhere to its principles.

Also in 1997, a group of NGOs and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements developed the Sphere Project which is a Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. It includes a Handbook, a process of collaboration and a commitment to quality and accountability. Importantly, a new chapter was recently added to the health chapter of the Sphere Handbook on Minimum Standards in Disaster Response which provides clear messages to improve mental and social health during humanitarian assistance.

A set of Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crises and Early Reconstruction has also been developed based on the right to education. These standards were developed in 2004 by the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) which is a global network working to ensure the right to education in emergencies and post-crisis reconstruction.

The “Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings” is the latest effort sustained by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Task Force (IASC) issued in 2007, which highlights the growing international focus on psychosocial intervention in disaster response.

With an increasing number of organisations implementing sport and physical activity programmes with psychosocial aims, there is a need for recommendations and guidelines to prevent harm, guide training, development and research and promote best practice.