Administrator Samantha Power at the Swearing-in Ceremony for USAID/Tajikistan Mission Director Peter Riley

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Thursday, December 2, 2021

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good morning everyone. Anjali, thank you for kicking us off.  I also want to extend a very special welcome to Ambassador Hamralizoda who’s joining us virtually—tashakor

Ambassador Pommersheim, thank you for your wonderful remarks from Tajikistan. Your dedication to Central Asia throughout your career is unmatched and I’m excited that soon, you will have our first permanent Mission Director to Tajikistan by your side, Peter Riley. 

It’s great to have so many of you here to swear Peter in in-person, including his wife Cristiana. As the daughter of an Italian diplomat, Cristiana is no stranger to moving all over the world, and her transcontinental journeys have only continued since marrying Peter 29 years ago. 

While navigating the world, they raised two boys, Liam and Griffin, who accompanied them to all of Peter’s postings. While they weren’t able to join us today, I know Liam (20) and Griffin (24) are extremely proud of their Dad. I don’t know what the Spring Break scene is like in Dushanbe, but I’m sure they’ll soon find out. 

As one of eight siblings, Peter fell smack dab in the middle. Growing up in a family of Irish heritage in Western Massachusetts, there was a natural affinity for John F. Kennedy among the Rileys. As one of President Kennedy's biggest fans in the Riley family, it seems inevitable that Peter ended up at USAID, the Agency President Kennedy founded 60 years ago.

When President Kennedy welcomed USAID’s first class of Mission Directors to the White House, he stressed to them the importance of their work and “how much we depend on your judgement.” Peter, that is as true then as it is now. I know your nickname is “Lucky,” but you are here today because of that judgement, because of your dedication and public-spiritedness, and because of your long history of impact.

After graduating from Harvard College, Peter joined yet another Kennedy creation, the Peace Corps, where he served in Zinder, Niger as a public school teacher. During his time in Zinder, Peter said that one quote from––guess who––JFK, taught him his first lesson about working in distant lands: “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.” 

Peter has reflected that spirit of universality throughout his career, quite literally, all around the world. For 12 years now, Peter has been a career Foreign Service Officer with USAID. His years of service––in various positions with USAID and with other development organizations––have brought him to fourteen countries across five continents. 

Prior to his new role in Tajikistan, he served as the Senior Development Advisor and Acting Mission Director for USAID in Tunisia; the Director of the Office of Economic Growth and Infrastructure in the USAID West Bank/Gaza Mission; Director of the Office of Consolidation, Land and Environment at USAID/Colombia; and Senior Stabilization Advisor for USAID/Afghanistan.

Before that it was Kenya, Liberia, Uganda, and six other countries. Raising two kids in one country can be a lot at times. Moving from country to country while raising two boys, and a dog, Max, takes a lot of love, commitment, and maybe a bit of luck! Apart from his commitment as a family man, Peter has helped our missions thrive.

In our West Bank-Gaza Mission, he managed to secure the first sales agreement for bulk water supply between the Palestines and Israelis providing over 32 million cubic meters of water to Palestinians annually—one of many infrastructure projects he helped lead during his time there. In case it’s unclear just how challenging it is for the U.S. government to support the construction of infrastructure in the West Bank, let me quote a colleague of Peter’s at length here:

“You need approval from multiple departments of three governments, with permitting and planning documents in three languages, somehow obtaining the agreement of the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the American government simultaneously.  You not only need to solicit, select, award and administer construction projects, but also mastermind the design, oversight and environmental compliance elements—separately planned and penned years before any actual digging even starts.  Peter not only did this once, but a dozen times in building roads and water projects throughout the West Bank, and even a desalination plant in Gaza!” Lucky or not, this is a man who knows how to make things happen!

And that experience will be essential to our newest bilateral Mission in Dushanbe. As Peter, and many of you know, the Tajik people have been facing a tough road for some time. The lack of universal access to clean drinking water and food security challenges are both being exacerbated by climate change. And there is still a very long road ahead for the country to expand civic space and free expression, and combat human trafficking, –which has devastated the lives of so many women and young girls.

To address these issues, our Mission is working with farmers to boost crop yields and employ advanced farming equipment while using less water. We’re also supporting civil society and independent media to strengthen accountability, which is critical to development. We’re also assisting in Tajikistan’s transition to renewable energy sources like hydropower. If Peter, the Ambassador, and the Embassy team can catalyze investment in hydropower, and tap this tremendous natural resource, it will be a major contribution not only to Tajikistan, but to humanity.

I know Tajikistan and the U.S. can work together to solve complex challenges, because I saw it firsthand this summer when our two nations worked together on providing safety for Afghan refugees. I want to thank the Government of Tajikistan for their commitment to helping route Afghan refugees to safety, and demonstrating the hospitality for which the country is so well known. 

Peter, I know that you understand the challenges ahead, and are already working to address them head on. Your 30 years of experience, in almost every corner of the globe, has provided you with a unique perspective that will undoubtedly improve lives across Tajikistan and the region. As your hero, President Kennedy said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” Today, you will once again refuse to be comfortable, and take action on behalf of your country and the people of Tajikistan. 

And with that, it is my pleasure to administer the Oath of Office.

Last updated: May 06, 2022

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