Eleanor Roosevelt, Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, holding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Photo: FDR Library

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), written to address the atrocities committed during World War II. Since then, the United Nations and other bodies have adopted additional documents on human rights. The International Bill of Human Rights includes the UDHR, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Every year, International Human Rights Day is observed on December 10. To celebrate, we  are reflecting on a few of the articles in the UDHR in the context of disaster response and recovery.


Article 1: All humans are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

Article 2: Everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms in this document, regardless of gender, sex, race, etc.

When a disaster hits a community, everyone is impacted in some way, but all too often,  some populations, including people of color and people living in poverty, are disproportionately affected by disasters and don’t have the resources to recover in the same way as more privileged communities. But after disasters, every human deserves to be able to recover and live with dignity and security, no matter their situation or background.


Article 13: Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state; Everyone has the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.

Article 14: Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.

Lutheran Disaster Response accompanies migrants and refugees around the world. Many are fleeing conflict, local violence, or economic hardships. Additionally, climate change is expected to be the biggest reason for migration this century. When people’s lives are disrupted by drought, constant flooding, hurricane after hurricane, some choose to move to a place less impacted by the intensifying disasters. People have the right to leave their home countries and seek safer lives, whatever the reason.

Alongside local partners, LDR supports refugees in Eastern Europe fleeing countries in the Middle East, Northern Africa and recently, Ukraine. LDR works with AMMPARO to accompany migrants from South and Central America that arrive in the United States.


Article 25: Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of [themself] and [their] family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond [their] control.

Disasters, whether natural or human-caused, affect the standard of living and quality of life for people impacted. Survivors can lose their home, belongings, jobs and may sustain injury due to disasters. LDR and our partners work to ensure that disaster survivors have the rights of Article 25 upheld. Our partners distribute food, clothing, hygiene supplies and items to ensure an adequate standard of living for disaster survivors. They also provide temporary shelter and repair and rebuild homes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when many people around their world lost their jobs, LDR and our partners provided for families affected by the economic impacts of the pandemic, so people were able to meet their families’ needs.

Effective disaster response upholds all the rights described in the UDHR and subsequent documents. Even when people’s lives are upended by natural or human-caused disasters, their human rights should not be at stake. That’s why the work of LDR and our local partners in the U.S. and around the world is so important – after a disaster, when our neighbors are living in uncertainty, we walk with impacted communities, responding to their needs and supporting recovery efforts while simultaneously celebrating their strength and resilience.


Get involved


  1. Visit the ELCA Advocacy Action Center to contact your congress members about vital issues impacting our communities, including government disaster response program reform and supporting refugees.
  2. By volunteering in local disaster response through your synod or regional social ministry organization, you can ensure that survivors’ right to adequate living is met.
  3. LDR is a trusted partner in disaster response. Your gifts to LDR help accompany our neighbors when their lives are upended by disaster. 100% of your gifts to a designated disaster go to disaster survivors.