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Bokova 220x220 - Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova

Former Director-General, UNESCO

Irina Bokova elected Director-General of UNESCO in 2009, and was successfully reelected for a second term in 2013. She was the first woman and the first Eastern European to lead the Organization.

As Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova 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 promoted culture as a driver for development, along with science diplomacy and cooperation.  

She spearheaded global awareness and campaigns to counter youth radicalization and prevent violent extremism, hate speech and discrimination, starting with action through education.  

Irina Bokova led UNESCO as a global advocate for the safety of journalists and freedom of expression.  

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. Appointed in charge of political and legal affairs at the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the United Nations in New York, she was a member of the Bulgarian Delegation to the UN World Conferences on Women in Copenhagen, Nairobi and Beijing. She was elected twice as Member of Parliament and she served as the Government’s first Secretary of European integration.  

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.  


Irina Bokova is co-Vice-Chair of the Broadband Commission and chair of the UN High Level Committee on Management.

She also served as Executive Secretary of the Steering Committee of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI, 2011-2015).

She is on the Forbes List of the world’s most influential women for 2016.

Irina Bokova has received state distinctions from countries across the world and is Doctor honoris causa of leading universities.  

In addition to her mother tongue, she speaks English, French, Spanish and Russian.