Food aid workers distributing packaged food
Jon Brause, in hat, with Richard Leach, former president and CEO of World Food Programme’s U.S. affiliate, in the Philippines in 2013. (Courtesy of World Food Programme)

Alumnus Part of Nobel Peace Prize-Winning Organization

Jon Brause directs Washington, D.C., office of the United Nations World Food Programme, recognized for combatting global hunger and improving prospects for peace.

Humanitarian work has taken Jon Brause (B.A., international relations, ’83) all over the world — to North Korea, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Philippines and more. As director of the Washington Liaison Office at the United Nations World Food Programme, he is immersed in global crises the organization was created to address. That work was rewarded in December, when the WFP won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.

“We like to say that although we got the award, it was really for the humanitarian community,” Brause said. “WFP is a proxy for the entire international community and the good work that’s being done and the recognition that we can’t turn away from it now.”

The WFP was established in 1962 to provide food aid on a global scale. In 2019, it assisted 97 million people. COVID-19 prompted the WFP’s largest response, ramping up assistance to 138 million in 2020.

For Brause, the path to this type of work was forged when he was young. His father’s career in the U.S. Marines took the family overseas. At UC Davis, Brause majored in international relations and studied abroad in Germany for a year. Shortly after he graduated, he left California. “I can’t tell you why, but I went to Washington, D.C. I decided that’s where the future lay.”

He started in international shipping, eventually getting a job at the U.S. Agency for International Development to oversee shipping. He transitioned to the humanitarian side and spent 22 years moving his way up through the organization. He has also held positions at the National War College and at the White House and National Security Council.

He joined the WFP in 2013.

The work, he said, can get marginalized as simple charity work. Instead, he emphasized the impact on global security, also highlighted by the Nobel committee for the growing need for financial support.

“To me, it’s always been a great motivator — knowing that the resources the U.S. is providing are not just helping people but helping stabilize a country,” Brause said. “To me, that’s the challenge — not just feeding, but moving toward peace.”

— Jocelyn Anderson (B.A., rhetoric and communication, ’98), editor of UC Davis Magazine, wrote this article for the magazine's spring/summer 2021 issue.

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