Irina Bokova, Former Director-General of UNESCO

Irina Bokova, Former Director-General of UNESCO


Irina Bokova, born on 12 July 1952 in Sofia (Bulgaria), has been two terms the Director-General of UNESCO from 2009 to 2017. She is the first woman and the first Eastern European to lead the Organization.

Having graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Irina Bokova was a Fellow at the University of Maryland (Washington) and followed an executive program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University). She began her career at the United Nations Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria. She was elected twice as Member of Parliament and she served as the Government's first Secretary for European affairs.

Irina Bokova was Minister for Foreign Affairs a.i., as well as Ambassador of Bulgaria to France, Monaco and UNESCO and Personal Representative of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

As Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova is actively engaged in international efforts to advance quality education for all, gender equality, the protection of the world’s cultural heritage as a humanitarian imperative and security issue to strengthen the foundations for lasting peace. She actively promotes culture as a driver for development, along with science diplomacy and cooperation.

She spearheads global awareness and campaigns to counter youth radicalization and prevent violent extremism, hate speech and discrimination, starting with action through education. She is also a leading voice and a global advocate for the safety of journalists and freedom of expression. She has been featured on the Forbes List of the World's Most Influential Women in 2016.

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