|Director-General of UNESCO|
15 October 2009
|Preceded by||Kōichirō Matsuura|
|Minister of Foreign Affairs
13 November 1996 – 13 February 1997
|Prime Minister||Zhan Videnov|
|Preceded by||Georgi Pirinski|
|Succeeded by||Stoyan Stalev (Acting)|
12 July 1952 |
|Political party||Communist Party (Before 1990)
Socialist Party (1990–present)
|Spouse(s)||Lubomir Kolarov (Divorced)
|Alma mater||Moscow State Institute of
Irina Georgieva Bokova (Bulgarian: Ирина Георгиева Бокова) (born 12 July 1952) is a Bulgarian politician and the incumbent Director-General of UNESCO. As Director-General of UNESCO, Bokova is actively supportive of international efforts to advance gender equality, improve education and cutoff funding for terrorism by increasing efforts to fight piracy of intellectual goods. A firm opponent of racism and anti-Semitism, Bokova has led UNESCO’s activities on Holocaust remembrance. She was member of the Bulgarian parliament from the Bulgarian Socialist Party for two terms, minister and deputy minister of foreign affairs in the cabinet of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, and was Bulgaria’s ambassador to France and to Monaco, Permanent Delegate of Bulgaria to UNESCO and personal representative of the Bulgaria’s president to the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (2005–2009).
On 22 September 2009, Bokova's candidacy was proposed for the post of Director-General of UNESCO. On 15 October 2009, The 35th Session of the General Conference elected Irina Bokova of Bulgaria as the tenth Director-General of UNESCO. Bokova is the first female and Eastern European to head UNESCO. In addition to her mother tongue, she speaks English, French, Spanish and Russian. She is married with two grown children who live and work in the United States.
Irina Bokova is the daughter of the communist-era politician Georgi Bokov, editor-in-chief of Rabotnichesko Delo, the official newspaper and organ of the Bulgarian Communist Party. By descent Bokova is Bulgarian from Macedonia. Bokova is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Subsequently, she worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, eventually becoming Minister in the winter of 1996–1997. She was a member of the Bulgarian communist party until 1990.
November 1996 - February 1997:
On 22 September 2009, Bokova was elected Director-General of UNESCO. She defeated nine candidates at the election in Paris, with Farouk Hosny ultimately being defeated by 31-27 in the fifth and last round of voting. Hosny had been expected to win but attracted criticism from figures such as Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel over his anti-Israel statements. She took over the position from Koïchiro Matsuura of Japan. She entered the office of the Director-General as both the first woman, and the first Eastern European to take this role. On 15 October 2009, The 35th Session of the General Conference elected Irina Bokova of Bulgaria as the tenth Director-General of UNESCO. The investiture took place in a ceremony in Room I in the afternoon of Friday 23 October 2009.
In 2009, while most of the Bulgarian media was supportive of Ms. Bokova's future role at the helm of UNESCO, some raised questions about her past as a daughter of a member of the totalitarian communist elite. Bulgarian-born German writer Iliya Troyanov criticised Bokova's election as Director-General of UNESCO in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, calling it "a scandal," in light of Bokova's father's communist past. On the other hand, The New York Times not only published an article, explaining who Mrs. Bokova is, but also officially supported her nomination on the grounds that "[s]he played an active role in Bulgaria’s political transformation from Soviet satellite to European Union member. That should be a strong asset in leading an organization badly buffeted in the past by ideological storms."
On 16 January 2014, Irina Bokova yielded to pressure from the Arab League and postponed for five months an exhibit entitled “The People, the Book, the Land — 3,500 years of ties between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel” following protest from the Arab states in UNESCO, arguing it would harm the peace process. Invitations had already gone out and the exhibit was scheduled to run from January 21 through January 30 at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters with fully prepared exhibition material already in place. In a letter to Bokova, Abdulla al Neaimi, an official from the United Arab Emirates, expressed “deep worry and great disapproval” over the program showing the age old connection between Israel and the Jewish people. The US State Department said it was outraged at the move, “UNESCO’s decision is wrong and should be reversed.” Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs said “is no appropriate rationale to delay the exhibition and deeply disappointed by the decision made to postpone it”. The Wiesenthal Center called the move an “Absolute outrage, the Arabs don’t want the world to know that the Jews have a 3,500-year relationship to the Land of Israel”. The exhibition was opened on June 11, 2014 in Paris, in a ceremony with participation by Mrs. Bokova and the Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Rabbi Marvin Hier. The exhibit was co-sponsored by Israel, Canada, and Montenegro, and was called "a breakthrough" by its author, professor Robert Wistrich.
On 28 March 2015, she launched Unite4Heritage, a campaign aiming to create a global movement "to protect and safeguard heritage in areas where it is threatened by extremists". The campaign was triggered by the programmatic destruction of cultural heritage conducted in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) since 2014, in particular after the circulation of videos of looting at Mosul Museum, destruction in the city of Nimrud and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hatra.
As Director-General of UNESCO, Bokova led efforts to block the trade in Syrian and Iraqi cultural artifacts to fund ISIS and other radical Islamist groups. These efforts led to the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2199 on 12 February 2015. This resolution officially recognized the link between illicit traffic and security, outlawed all trade in cultural goods from Iraq and Syria and requested that UNESCO coordinate efforts in this area with Interpol. In response to the threat to Iraq’s antiquities from increased violence and instability, Bokova implemented an emergency plan to safeguard artifacts of Iraq’s cultural heritage.
In June 2014 the Bulgarian government nominated Irina Bokova to be the official candidate of the country for the United Nations top job.
In January 2015 the new Bulgarian government confirmed the candidacy. That same month former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski wrote in an article at the Wall Street Journal, that her work at UNESCO is "highly regarded", and that the Bulgarian government has "nominated her to succeed Ban Ki-moon as the next U.N. Secretary-General, and she is widely believed to be the frontrunner for that position".
In July 2015 The Guardian published an article, titled Will the next UN secretary general be a woman? with a picture of Irina Bokova and a description The head of Unesco, Irina Bokova from Bulgaria, is a favourite to become the UN’s new secretary general in 2017.
Bulgarian weekly Capital wrote a page about her candidacy, which states, among other,
Bokova demonstrates diplomatic and governance skills in a big international organization - UNESCO, which she heads for a second term. She has good reputation to the permanent five members of the UN Security Council. She speaks fluently English, French, Spanish and Russian - four of the six official UN languages (the requirement is for two). She has a clear vision about the mission and activity of the organization.
In July 2015 EurActiv published an article by former Irish Minister for European Affairs and Minister for the Environment Dick Roche, titled The next UN Secretary-General? Bokova ticks all the boxes, arguing in favor of Irina Bokova's candidacy.
Responding to a Parliamentary question, on 18 May 2015 the Bulgarian foreign minister Daniel Mitov explained the process, undertaken by the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to support Irina Bokova's candidacy. He informed the Bulgarian Parliament that the campaign consists of three stages - information-consultative one - until September 2015, the essential stage - between September 2015 and April 2016, and the last stage - from May 2016 until October–December 2016.
Bokova features as a main character in three plays by Paris-based UK playwright Nick Awde – Bruges (The Europeans Part 1; Edinburgh Festival 2014), Antwerp (The Europeans Part 2; Edinburgh Festival 2015), and Tervuren (The Europeans Part 3; 2016).
|Award or decoration||Date||Place|
|Doctor honoris causa of Ewha Womans University||May 2010||Seoul, Korea|
|Doctor honoris causa of Moscow State Institute of International Relations||September 2010||Moscow, Russian Federation|
|Doctor honoris causa of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore||October 2010||Milan, Italy|
|Doctor honoris causa of St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo||October 2010||Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria|
|Doctor honoris causa of National University of San Martín||December 2010||Buenos Aires, Argentina|
|Doctor honoris causa in Law of Pontifical Catholic University of Peru||February 2011||Lima, Peru|
|Doctor honoris causa of Philippine Normal University||March 2011||Manila, Philippines|
|Quadricentennial Golden Cross Award of University of Santo Tomas||March 2011||Manila, Philippines|
|Doctor honoris causa of National University of Political Studies and Public Administration Studies||April 2011||Bucharest, Romania|
|Doctor honoris causa of Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center at Haifa University||May 2011||Haifa, Israel|
|Doctor honoris causa of University of Edinburgh||June 2011||Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom|
|Doctor honoris causa of Mongolian University of Science and Technology||July 2011||Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia|
|Doctor honoris causa of Lomonosov Moscow State University||September 2011||Moscow, Russian Federation|
|Doctor honoris causa of University of Algiers 1||April 2012||Algiers, Algeria|
|Doctor honoris causa of University of Dhaka||May 2012||Dhaka, Bangladesh|
|Honorary Professor of Tongji University||May 2012||Shanghai, China|
|Honorary Distinction of Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava||May 2012||Bratislava, Slovak Republic|
|Honorary Distinction of Slovak Academy of Sciences||May 2012||Bratislava, Slovak Republic|
|Doctor honoris causa of Herzen University||June 2012||St. Petersburg, Russian Federation|
|Doctor honoris causa of Durham University||June 2012||Durham, United Kingdom|
|Doctor honoris causa of Laval University||February 2013||Quebec, Canada|
|Doctor honoris causa of Tongji University||May 2013||Shanghai, China|
|Doctor honoris causa of Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam||June 2013||Ha Noi, Vietnam|
|Doctor honoris causa of Eurasian National University||August 2013||Astana, Kazakhstan|
|Doctor honoris causa in Humanities of University of Malaya||September 2013||Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia|
|Honourable Medal and Diploma of National Academy of Sciences||April 2014||Kyiv, Ukraine|
|Doctor honoris causa of University of Yaoundé I||September 2014||Yaoundé, Cameroon|
|Doctor honoris causa of National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts||October 2014||Paris, France|
|KOÇ-KAM Semahat Arsel Distinguished Fellow of Koç University||January 2015||Istanbul, Turkey|
|Doctor honoris causa of University of National and World Economy||January 2015||Sofia, Bulgaria|
|Grand Cross of the Order of the Sun of Peru||February 2011||Lima, Peru|
|Grand Chancellor of the National Order of Chad||March 2012||Chad|
|Title of Commander of the National Order of Benin||June 2012||Benin|
|Officer of the Order of Cultural Merit||March 2013||Monaco|
|Grand Officer of the Condecoracion de la Orden Jose Matias Delgado||March 2013||El Salvador|
|Order of the People’s Friendship of the Republic of Bashkortostan||October 2013||Bashkortostan|
|National Order "Juan Mora Fernández"||November 2013||Costa Rica|
|Order of Diplomatic Service Merit||February 2014||Seoul, Korea|
|Hilal-i-Pakistan Award||February 2014||Pakistan|
|Order of Friendship||April 2014||Kazakhstan|
|Order of Stara Planina (1st class)||31 March 2014||Sofia, Bulgaria|
|Medal «Magtymguly Pyragy»||15 May 2014||Ashgabat, Turkmenistan|
|Title of Commander of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite||July 2014||Rabat, Morocco|
|Grand Officer of the Order of Valour of Cameroon||September 2014||Cameroon|
|Title of Commander of the Legion of Honour||April 2015||Paris, France|
On April 6, 2015, the French Embassy in Bulgaria announced that Mrs. Bokova has been awarded the French Order of the Legion of Honour. On 31 March 2014, Bokova was officially awarded Bulgaria's highest national honour - the Order of Stara Planina (1st class) by president Rosen Plevneliev for her extremely significant merits to Bulgaria, bringing about an improvement in world peace and security indicators, and the development of political and cultural exchanges at the highest levels.
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|Minister of Foreign Affairs
|Director-General of UNESCO