Administrator Samantha Power at the Swearing-in Ceremony for Incoming USAID Mission Director for Bosnia and Herzegovina Courtney Chubb

Speeches Shim

Tuesday, September 14, 2021


ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much, Lisa, and good morning everyone, good afternoon, good evening, depending on where you’re joining from.

Congratulations, Courtney, and in advance, thank you for your service—more service, as you are the consummate public servant.

I had a few minutes to chat with Courtney and her husband, Ali before getting started this morning. I have to share, first, that they met at the Department of Commerce—a renowned hotbed of romance! As wonderful as that, Ali, who originally hails from Iran, shared that both his parents attended American University in Beirut on USAID scholarships!

Ali retired last year after 25 years working in many corners of the world as a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department and so, Ali, let me take this opportunity before we talk about your lovely wife, to thank you for your service. I know that you will find a way to make a great difference alongside Courtney in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

They’re joining us today from Burlington, Vermont, where we should all wish to reside, and a city I have a lot of affection for––in part because of a mutual friend, Burlington’s Mayor, Miro Weinberger.

Mayor Weinberger and I started off with one career ambition—that until this point has been a secret at USAID—both of us just wanted to be sportscasters when we grew up. Baseball, play-by-play, or color commentator announcers, and both of us have failed in that aspiration, but we did that together when we were in college.

This State-AID tandem has shared a lifetime of foreign service experience from Bogota to Moscow, to Bangkok and Jerusalem.

I also want to welcome Courtney’s in-laws who have joined us today—Ali’s father from Bujumbura, Burundi and his brother from France.

And of course, Courtney and Ali’s boys, Brady and Aidan, who are watching from their respective universities—Aidan at Carleton College in Minnesota, and Brady at the University of Vermont.

It’s such a pleasure to have you and just thank all of you. The life that Courtney and Ali have led together—one of service to those less fortunate in many instances—would not have been possible without the support and the sacrifices of all of you.

Courtney and I also share ties to Massachusetts, where she grew up in Bedford, just outside of Boston, where her father, a three star general, was stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base.

Courtney stayed close to home, studying government at Harvard before getting her Masters from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and serving in her first post in public service: as a Central and Eastern Europe Trade Specialist at the Department of Commerce.

Since then she’s served in Thailand, Russia, and Mexico, and most recently as the Acting Mission Director for our Mission in the West Bank and Gaza.

And now Courtney is shifting her focus back to a region of the world where she got her start in government.

Bosnia and Herzegovina will be Courtney’s first post as Mission Director, but her creativity and leadership have already had lasting impacts on Missions around the world—and here in Washington, where she served as the Director of the Foreign Service Center in the Office of Human Capital and Talent Management at USAID Headquarters.

It was in this role where Courtney oversaw the Agency’s policies and operations supporting over 1700 Foreign Service Officers, managing their assignments, and making sure we got the right people to the right places at the right time.

Recalling her tenure, one of Courtney’s colleagues said, “Despite the fast operational tempo and pressure to deliver for the Agency, Courtney was a beacon of light and positivity as a leader. She inspired us not only to do our best every day, with a smile and infectious optimism, but she also encouraged us to innovate.”

As an Agency, we’re lucky that Courtney has been encouraging innovative thinking in each of her roles.

After the previous Administration suspended assistance to the West Bank and Gaza, Courtney helped retain the talents of 45 Senior Foreign Service Nationals.

Knowing how important it was to keep these local staff members employed in a region of great need, Courtney helped them find new assignments in other countries in the region… and these 45 FSNs were able to continue their service to USAID.

But Courtney didn’t stop there. She brought the FSNs to meet directly with the Ambassador so that he could hear their voices, learn from their experience, understand their concerns, and benefit from their political insights. Knowledge of the day-to-day conditions in which their neighbors and loved ones and countrymen and women are living.

As Courtney has said herself about our locally employed staff, “They are USAID.” I couldn’t agree more.

USAID Foreign Service Nationals are the key that unlocks so much of the progress that we’re able to make for the people we serve.

And Courtney’s support for FSNs has not gone unnoticed. One FSN from Courtney’s stint in Bangkok said, “She was the most caring supervisor I have ever come across. No matter how busy she is, she always has time for her staff and is willing to listen and help solve work issues.”

It also helps that Courtney is a celebrated baker of cookies who shares her gifts on a regular basis with her staff. One colleague shared, “It was always a good day when you saw the plate of fresh baked goodies on the desk outside her office!”

So Courtney will be taking her baking skills––and her transformational leadership—to USAID’s Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A place where I got my start in my career and a place truly ensconced in my heart forever.

Two months ago, we marked 26 years since Ratko Mladic’s heinous campaign to permanently rid Bosnia and Herzegovina of its non-Serb populations and to create an ethnically pure Serb state.

Appeals judges have handed down a verdict affirming Mladic’s conviction on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, bringing a measure of long-awaited justice to victims and their families in Bosnia.

But as Courtney and I discussed earlier, these crimes and the savagery carried out in that conflict have generational impacts—especially given the rise of genocide denial; given the fact that the perpetrators of those crimes are still active in silencing their witnesses and in keeping evidence of their crimes from surfacing. These issues are still very fresh and very alive in the day-to-day lives of the people across the country.

When I was a war correspondent in my early twenties, I made an effort to shine a light on the killings that occurred, including massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica.

I will say that when the war was brought to an end, I had hope that the ethnic divisions that had fueled the conflict would, with time, get addressed. That there would be reconciliation across conflict lines and across ethnic lines.

And we can’t let that hope fade. It is a long time that has passed and we have seen some of those ethnic divisions sadly cemented over time or exacerbated by opportunistic and very self-serving—not citizen-serving—leaders in the region.

But we, as the United States, with our policy and with our programming, have to continue to press for justice, mutual trust, and reconciliation.

And as Courtney and I just discussed, we continue to work closely with local communities. USAID is a pivotal player in seeking to enhance security and prosperity in the country.

We have a situation where the economy is so difficult, the job prospects are so few, that a huge share of young people are leaving the country to try to find employment outside it. So the economic pillar of USAID’s work is incredibly important. But it is also essential that we continue, again, to invest in strengthening democratic institutions that are not working as they should be, and that we invest in breaking down those virtual walls that exist between communities that have so much in common that they, in many cases, can’t even see any more, giving future generations of Bosnians a sense of hope that for so many years has been absent.

Since the end of the war, the U.S. has provided more than $1.7 billion in assistance to support democratic, social, and economic progress and advance Bosnia and Herzegovina toward its goal of EU accession and its goal more broadly of Euro-Atlantic integration.

But like so many countries globally, COVID has upended the economy, exacerbating the country’s skyrocketing youth unemployment and unemployment more broadly.

In response, USAID has partnered with UNICEF in a two-year, $4.8 million project to strengthen Bosnia and Herzegovina’s response to and recovery from the pandemic, addressing major gaps in the education, social protection, and health sectors necessary to spur economic development.

We’re also leveraging the country’s diaspora communities to aid in development efforts.

Launched in 2017, the Diaspora Invest project helps structure and stimulate investment in the country. As of February of last year it had provided support to 86 diaspora companies throughout the country and generated nearly $10 million in new investments, creating many new jobs for people who sorely need them.

With more young people leaving each year; with young people as the primary hope to see in one another all that they do have in common with people from other communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the economic, governance, and security, three legs of the stool, of course all go together. And so addressing each of these pillars will be central to what Courtney works on.

We remain committed to working with local actors to improve services, administrative systems, budgeting and financial management, and of course to try to cut down on corruption.

At the same time we recognize that so much of the dynamism in Bosnia and Herzegovina isn’t just happening in government, local government, but is happening in civil society where USAID invests so much of its resources and energy, and where Courtney has such great experience to bring to bear.

While Bosnia and Herzegovina faces considerable economic and governance challenges, I could not be more excited that the country’s new USAID Mission Director is one of this Agency’s finest and most beloved leaders. I also, Courtney, really appreciate your lifetime of attention to the welfare of Foreign Service Nationals and really hope that you will keep that up. And we will offer you any support we can from the Front Office on that score, as we look to enhance training and other opportunities for our Foreign Service Nationals.

I should also note that we’re sending a fierce competitor. While in Israel, Courtney was part of a Masters Swim Team—all Israelis, except for Courtney. She was the fastest one and earned the nickname “the beast.”

Courtney is as fierce in the field as she is in the water, and her experience building relationships with key stakeholders is going to be critical as we continue our work to help the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina build a more prosperous economy, more effective and transparent institutions, an even stronger civil society, and as we seek to advance the long-overdue cause of reconciliation in the country.

Courtney, thank you for all that you have already done for this Agency and all the people you seek to support, and thank you in advance for all you will do in a country very close to my heart, and very close to the hearts of President Biden and Secretary Blinken.

With that, it is my pleasure to administer the oath.

Last updated: September 14, 2021

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