|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 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, deputy minister and acting 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.
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. Bokova is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Ms Bokova worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, starting in 1977 as a third secretary and eventually becoming acting minister (ad interim) between November 13, 1996 – February 13, 1997. In 2015 German newspaper Die Welt discovered an error on her UNESCO biography page, where she was named the minister, and not the ad interim. She was a member of the Bulgarian communist party until 1990, when the party was renamed in Bulgarian Socialist Party.
- 1971: First English Language School, Sofia.
- 1976: Moscow State Institute of International Relations, MSc 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.
- 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
- 2005 - 2009: Ambassador of Bulgaria to France and Monaco
- 2005 - 2009: Ambassador of Bulgaria to UNESCO
- November 1996 – February 1997: acting minister of foreign affairs
- June 1995 – February 1997, other positions held in the cabinet of Zhan Videnov, Bulgarian Socialist Party:
- 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.
- 1984 - 1990: second and first secretary, Department UN and Disarmament
- 1982 - 1984: third secretary, Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the UN
- 1977 - 1982: intern and third secretary, Department UN and Disarmament
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 21 January through 30 January 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 11 June 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 18 November 2015 Irina Bokova was given the Special Award of the Simon Wiesenthal Center at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of the exhibition People, Book, Land: The 3,500 year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land in the U.S. capital. Bokova inaugurated the exhibition in the presence of Edward Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer and Rabbi Marvin Hier.
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.
On 19 October 2015, German DW reported that Japan threatens to halt funding for UNESCO over the organization's decision to include documents relating to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in the latest listing for its "Memory of the World" program. While the decision is not of the Director-General, a Japanese professor claimed that Mrs. Bokova might have interest in courting China.
United Nations Secretary-General Candidacy
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.
On 29 September 2015 David Clark, chairman of the Russia Foundation, published an article in the Financial Times' beyondbrics forum. In it the author says, "Of the women from Eastern Europe being discussed is Irina Bokova, the current head of UNESCO and former Bulgarian foreign minister. She is considered to be a front-runner. Bulgaria’s prime minister officially nominated and endorsed her this summer."
On 2 October 2015 governor Bill Richardson wrote an opinion for the Washington Post, The next U.N. secretary general should be a woman. There he describes women, who are considered as potential candidates. About Bokova, he writes, "several leading candidates are beginning to emerge. Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO and Bulgaria’s official candidate, fulfills many of the required criteria and is seen by many as the front-runner. She has taken a strong stance on the fight against extremism and terror financing and is actively championing women empowerment and girls’ education."
On 9 October 2015 an article in the Forbes magazine featured Irina Bokova under the title This Woman Will Likely Be The Next UN General Secretary, and says, among other,
In person, she’s intensely attentive and soft-voiced. Deceptively driven, in fact, and a seriously good listener, a virtue she will need in abundance as General Secretary. Above all, she comes across as a passionate idealist. You get her talking about the depredations to Palmyra and her eyes flash with determination.
On 9 February 2016 the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry announced that her candidacy for the top UN job has been officially submitted to the United Nations for consideration.
Awards and decorations
|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 6 April 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.
- Irina Bokova, directrice générale de l’UNESCO, nommée commandeur de la Légion d’honneur French Embassy in Sofia
- "Bokova wins Unesco leadership vote". Al Jazeera. 22 September 2009. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
- "A Glance at UNESCO's Next Leader". The New York Times. 22 September 2009.[dead link]
- "Стандарт", Брой 5860, 8 май 2009. (Bulgarian)
- UNESCO. "Irina Bokova". UNESCO. Retrieved 2015-12-28.
- Stefanie Bolzen (23 December 2015). "Frontrunner for top UN job exaggerates biography". Die Welt. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
- Biography on Irina Bokova's personal web site
- Tasho Tashev, Bulgarian ministers 1879-1999 ISBN 978-954-430-603-8 / ISBN 978-954-509-191-9. p. 61 (Book about members of the Bulgarian cabinets since 1979, in Bulgarian)
- STEVEN ERLANGER (22 September 2009). "Bulgarian Defeats Egyptian in Unesco Vote". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2009.
- "Irina Bokova nominated by UNESCO Executive Board for the post of Director-General". UNESCO. 4 October 2013. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
- UNESCO General Conference elects Irina Bokova for second term as Director-General
- 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, The New York Times, 24 September 2009.
- The Right Head for Unesco, The New York Times, 28 September 2009.
- Information regarding the planned exhibition, “People, Book, Land – The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land” (information from UNESCO)
- "UN cancels Jewish exhibit at last minute on Arab complaints". Fox News Channel.
- "U.S. chides UNESCO for putting Jewish exhibit on hold". Reuters.
- "US, Canada urge UNESCO not to postpone exhibit on Land of Israel". The Jerusalem Post.
- "UN cancels Jewish exhibit at last minute on Arab complaints". Fox News Channel.
- “People, Book, Land: The 3500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People with the Holy Land” exhibition opens at UNESCO (information from UNESCO web site)
- UNESCO deletes ‘Israel’ from title of its exhibit on Jewish ties to Israel (article in The Times of Israel)
- "UNESCO Head Irina Bokova Gets Simon Wiesenthal Center Special Award". Novinite.com.
- "UNESCO Director-General Joins Top Congressional Leaders at Capitol Hill Opening of SWC Historical Exhibition on the Jewish People and The Holy Land". SWC.
- "#Unite4Heritage campaign launched by UNESCO Director-General in Baghdad". UNESCO. Retrieved 15 May 2015.
- "We stand together to protect Iraq's cultural heritage, says French President with UNESCO Director-General". UNESCO. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Web Site, UNESCO. "Emergency Response Action Plan to safeguard Iraqi heritage". Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Japan furious at UNESCO listing Nanjing Massacre documents
- Bulgaria nominates Bokova for UN Secretary General (EurActive)
- Bulgaria puts forward Bokova's candidacy for UN Secretary-General(EurActive)
- Aleksander Kwasniewski (1 January 2015). "Leaders Among Equals". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 August 2015.
- Salima Yacoubi Soussane (9 July 2015). "Will the next UN secretary general be a woman?". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Nikola Nikolov (16 August 2014). "On the road to the top of the UN". Capital Weekly. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- The next UN Secretary-General? Bokova ticks all the boxes (article by Dick Roche, published at EurActiv)
- Response by minister Mitov to a question by MP Kristian Vigenin (in Bulgarian, from the official site of the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry)
- "Eastern Europe must grab its chance to name the next UN Secretary General". Financial Times. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
- "The next U.N. secretary general should be a woman". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
- "This Woman Will Likely Be The Next UN General Secretary". Forbes. Retrieved 10 October 2015.
- Message from the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry (in Bulgarian)
- Alsina. "Туркменистан сегодня – веб-сайт государственного информационного агентства Туркменистана – Указы Президента Туркменистана и Хроника 15-го мая". Turkmenistan state news agency.
- UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova awarded Order of the Legion of Honour
- Irina Bokova, directrice générale de l’UNESCO, nommée commandeur de la Légion d’honneur (from the site of the French Embassy in Sofia)
- Указ № 211 Обн. ДВ. бр. 98 от 12 ноември 2013 г.
- "Бокова получи орден "Стара планина" с лента и се върна в детството". mediapool.bg. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Irina Bokova|
Articles and Interviews
- Education on the Frontline (Published on 30 January 2013, in Global Education Magazine)
- UNESCO Chief: ISIS trying to erase world history (Christiane Amanpour speaks with Irina Bokova about ISIS' wanton destruction of the ancient sites in Iraq)
- UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova also took part in the celebrations the Russian Victory Day parade in Moscow
|Minister of Foreign Affairs
|Director-General of UNESCO