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Irina Bokova

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Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova
Ирина Бокова
Director-General of UNESCO
Assumed office
15 October 2009
Deputy Getachew Engida
Preceded by Kōichirō Matsuura
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
13 November 1996 – 13 February 1997
Prime Minister Zhan Videnov
Preceded by Georgi Pirinski
Succeeded by Stoyan Stalev (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1952-07-12) 12 July 1952
Sofia, Bulgaria
Political party Communist Party (Before 1990)
Socialist Party (1990–present)
Spouse(s) Lubomir Kolarov (Divorced)
Kalin Mitrev
Children Pavel
Alma mater Moscow State Institute of
International Relations
Website Official website

Irina Georgieva Bokova (

Childhood and early years

Irina Bokova is the daughter of the communist-era politician Bulgarian Communist Party.[3] By descent Bokova is Bulgarian from Macedonia.[4] 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.


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
Order of Stara Planina (1st class) 31 March 2014 Sofia, Bulgaria
Medal «Magtymguly Pyragy»[6] 15 May 2014 Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

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.[7][8]


Current positions

  • 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.[5]
  • 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.

Parliamentary experience

  • 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:

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.[5]
  • Co-Chairperson, Bulgaria – EU Association Committee.[5]
  • National PHARE Co-ordinator.[5]
  • 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.[1] 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.[1][2] Hosny had been expected to win but attracted criticism from figures such as Nobel Peace laureate Elie Wiesel over his anti-Israel statements.[1][9] She takes over the position from Koïchiro Matsuura of Japan.[1] She will serve in this office for a four-year period.[2] Bokova is both the first woman and the first Eastern European to take this role.[1] 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.[10]

Saudi King Abdullah was awarded a UNESCO medal by UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova in 2012.


While some of the Bulgarian media was supportive[11] 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.[12] Bulgarian-born German writer [15]

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.[16] The US State Department said it was outraged at the move, “UNESCO’s decision is wrong and should be reversed.”[17] 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”.[18] 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”.[19]

Articles and Interviews

"Education on the Frontline", published on January 30, 2013, in Global Education Magazine, in the special edition of "School Day of Peace and Nonviolence".


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Bokova wins Unesco leadership vote".  
  2. ^ a b c "Bokova beats Hosni for UNESCO head".  
  3. ^ "A Glance at UNESCO's Next Leader".  
  4. ^ "Стандарт", Брой 5860, 8 май 2009. (Bulgarian)
  5. ^ a b c d e Biography on Irina Bokova's personal web site
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Указ № 211 Обн. ДВ. бр. 98 от 12 ноември 2013 г.
  8. ^ "Бокова получи орден "Стара планина" с лента и се върна в детството". 2014-03-31. Retrieved 2014-04-01. 
  9. ^ STEVEN ERLANGER (2009-09-22). "Bulgarian Defeats Egyptian in Unesco Vote".  
  10. ^ "Irina Bokova nominated by UNESCO Executive Board for the post of Director-General".  
  11. ^ F.e. "Don't Envy, Rejoice, Bulgarians" (In Bulgarian), an editorial in "Trud", Bulgaria's best-selling newspaper
  12. ^ "Is Bokova's Win a Win for the Entire Nation" a blog posting by Ivo Indzhev, a prominent Bulgarian journalist and blogger (In Bulgarian)
  13. ^ Warum die Unesco-Wahl ein Skandal ist (German), Summary in English, In Bulgarian
  14. ^ Bulgarian Who Is to Lead Unesco Advocates Political Pluralism, New York Times, Sept. 24, 2009.
  15. ^ The Right Head for Unesco, New York Times, Sept. 28, 2009.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Georgi Pirinski
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Succeeded by
Stoyan Stalev
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Kōichirō Matsuura
Director-General of UNESCO
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