|10th Director-General of UNESCO|
15 October 2009
|Preceded by||Kōichirō Matsuura|
12 July 1952 |
|Spouse(s)||Lubomir Kolarov (divorced), Kalin Mitrev|
|Children||Pavel and Naia|
|Alma mater||Moscow State Institute of International Relations|
Irina Georgieva Bokova (Bulgarian: Ирина Георгиева Бокова) (born 12 July 1952) is a Bulgarian politician and incumbent Director-General of UNESCO. She was member of the Bulgarian Parliament from the Bulgarian Socialist Party for two terms, minister and deputy minister of foreign affairs in the socialist cabinet of Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, and was Ambassador of the Republic of Bulgaria to France and to Monaco, Permanent Delegate of Bulgaria to UNESCO and Personal Representative of the President of Bulgaria 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.
Childhood and early years
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.
- 1971: First English Language School, Sofia.
- 1976: Moscow State Institute of International Relations, M.Sc. in international relations.
- Jan. - Aug. 1989: University of Maryland, School of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., Program on US foreign policy decision-making process.
- 1992 - 1994: NATO fellow, Program for Central and Eastern Europe on democratic institutions focusing on the national and legal mechanism for the protection of minorities.
- Nov. - Dec. 1999: Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Executive Program in Leadership and Economic Development.
Awards and decorations
|Award or decoration||Date||Place|
|Doctor honoris causa of Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore||7 October 2010||Milan, Italy|
|Golden Cross Award (Quadricentennial Golden Cross) of the University of Santo Tomas||25 March 2011||Manila City, Philippines|
|Doctor honoris causa Philippine Normal University||26 March 2011||Manila City, Philippines|
- Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
- Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to France.
- Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Principality of Monaco.
- Permanent Delegate of the Republic of Bulgaria to UNESCO.
- Representative of the Bulgarian Government to the Executive Board of UNESCO (since the election of Bulgaria in October 2007).
- Personal Representative of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).
- Deputy Chairperson, Group of Francophone Countries at UNESCO.
- Chairperson of the Second Extraordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (February 2008, Sofia).
- Member of the Literary group Prix des Ambassadeur.
- Deputy Chairperson of the Foreign Policy, Defense and Security Committee.
- Member of the European Integration Committee.
- Deputy Chairperson of the Joint Parliamentary Committee Bulgaria – European Union.
Civil Society experience
- Founder and Chairperson of the European Policy Forum (since its inception in Sofia in 1997), a non-profit, non-governmental organization.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs experience
November 1996 - February 1997:
- First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of UN, OSCE, EU and NATO.
- Chief co-ordinator of Bulgaria–EU relations.
- Co-Chairperson, Bulgaria – EU Association Committee.
- National PHARE Co-ordinator.
- Chairperson, Inter-Agency Co-ordination Commission on European Integration (at deputy ministerial level).
- Took part as head of delegation or keynote speaker in a number of international fora.
- Member of the Board of Trustees of the Centre for European Studies.
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 takes over the position from Koïchiro Matsuura of Japan. She will serve in this office for a four-year period. Bokova is 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.
On 4 October 2013, the Executive Board of UNESCO nominated her for second term as Director-General.
Saudi King Abdullah was awarded a UNESCO medal by UNESCO President Irina Bokova in 2012.
While some of the Bulgarian media was supportive of Ms. Bokova's future role at the helm of UNESCO, others 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 January 16, 2014, Irina Bokova yielded to pressure from the Arab League and canceled the exhibit entitled, “The People, the Book, the Land — 3,500 years of ties between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel,” after 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”. 
Articles and Interviews
- "Bokova wins Unesco leadership vote". Al Jazeera. 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- "Bokova beats Hosni for UNESCO head". The Jerusalem Post. 2009-09-22. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- "A Glance at UNESCO's Next Leader". The New York Times. 2009-09-22.[dead link]
- "Стандарт", Брой 5860, 8 май 2009. (Bulgarian)
- Biography on Irina Bokova's personal web site
- STEVEN ERLANGER (2009-09-22). "Bulgarian Defeats Egyptian in Unesco Vote". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
- "Irina Bokova nominated by UNESCO Executive Board for the post of Director-General". UNESCO. 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2013-10-07.
- F.e. "Don't Envy, Rejoice, Bulgarians" (In Bulgarian), an editorial in "Trud", Bulgaria's best-selling newspaper
- "Is Bokova's Win a Win for the Entire Nation" a blog posting by Ivo Indzhev, a prominent Bulgarian journalist and blogger (In Bulgarian)
- Warum die Unesco-Wahl ein Skandal ist (German), Summary in English, In Bulgarian
- Bulgarian Who Is to Lead Unesco Advocates Political Pluralism, New York Times, Sept. 24, 2009.
- The Right Head for Unesco, New York Times, Sept. 28, 2009.