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Death of UNHCR Chief of Mission

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Death of UNHCR Chief of Mission

20 January 2000

UNHCR Chief of Mission for Kosovo, David Riley, died overnight 19-20 January of apparent natural causes. He was 50 years old, and is survived by his wife and son who reside in Geneva.

David Riley aided refugees worldwide since joining the United Nations in 1981 in Mogadishu as a UN Volunteer. Over the years he served UNHCR in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Malawi, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Riley rose to become the top officer overseeing UNHCR assistance operations worldwide as head of the Programme Coordination and Budget Section in Geneva before being named to lead UNHCR's operations in Kosovo in June 1999.

Following KFOR's entry into Kosovo, Riley set up office in a warehouse outside Pristina on 15 June 1999 in order to begin managing UNHCR's massive assistance programme to help Kosovars home.

"David Riley was an exceptional human being, much loved and respected by his colleagues, who distinguished himself in a number of emergency missions around the world," said UNHCR Special Envoy Dennis McNamara. "He was instrumental in planning UNHCR's assistance programme for the Kosovar refugees, and led UNHCR's emergency response upon their rapid return home to Kosovo."

Always interested in the people he served, David Riley spent at least one day a week visiting UNHCR operations in Kosovo and meeting with the people. One yardstick for Riley was the village of Prejlep in Kosovo's Decan region, which he visited monthly to gauge the progress its residents were making in rebuilding their shattered community.

A native of Glen Mills, USA, Riley's first experience in the relief community was with the US Peace Corps, which he served in Tunisia and Togo. He majored in religion at Kalamazoo College, and later earned a master's degree in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania.

A memorial service for David Riley will be arranged in coming days in Pristina.