WOMAN of ACTION™ – Irina Bokova


A Celebration of Women™

pays this Tribute, a professional sharing to Celebrate the Life of this woman, very active and working diligently to help others,

as the Director of UNESCO today and having held many other positions she has held in her career.

Here is a Tribute to a serious WOMAN of ACTION™.







“I wish to thank all for the warm and heartfelt congratulations on my nomination for the post of Director General of UNESCO. Thank you very much for your support on which I will rely during my mandate at the head of this prestigious international Organization” Irina Bokova


Childhood and early years

Irina Bokova is the daughter of the controversial communist-era politician Georgi Bokov, editor-in-chief of Rabotnichesko Delo, the official newspaper and organ of the Bulgarian Communist Party and suspected to have been involved in the murder of famous Bulgarian anti-communist caricaturist and publicist Rayko Aleksiev By descent Bokova is Bulgarian from Macedonia. Bokova is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Subsequently, as a member of the Bulgarian Communist Party and its successor, the Bulgarian Socialist Party, Bokova made a career in Bulgaria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, eventually becoming Minister in 1996.

Director-General of UNESCO
Born 12 July 1952, Bulgarian
Married, two children


irina unescoIrina Bokova was elected on Sept. 22, 2009, as the new director general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

She defeated the Egyptian culture minister, Farouk Hosny, by a vote of 31 to 27 in a fifth and final round of voting in a process that was marred by intense international politics.

Ms. Bokova is the ‘first woman‘ and the first Eastern European to run the agency, which deals with culture, architectural protection, education, press freedom and many other issues.

Ms Bokova also declared: “East, west, north, south: I will endeavor to build numerous bridges between these parts, all involved in the process of globalization. Globalization calls for watchfulness because – while it liberates and helps millions get out of poverty and destitution – it also risks reducing our world of rich diversity into uniformity.”

Her victory was a bitter defeat for Egypt and its president, Hosni Mubarak, who tried to line up the 30 votes of the Unesco executive board in advance to ensure a first-round victory in an initial field of nine candidates. But Mr. Hosny was accused of anti-Semitism and censorship in his 22 years as culture minister, and his lead slowly melted away as his opponents finally coalesced around Ms. Bokova.

Trying to reach out to the Arab world after the vote, Ms. Bokova emphasized that she came from a small town in southwest Bulgaria, which had a large Muslim population, and she said she was committed to multiculturalism. She is expected to be confirmed at the Unesco general conference on Oct. 15.

She said she would strive to give Unesco a more prominent role in talks on climate change and would focus more resolutely on gender roles, the financial crisis and other issues. As the first Eastern European director of Unesco, she said she would help improve the region’s prominence in cultural affairs.

Fluent in English, French, Spanish and Russian, she said her real ambition had been to be a foreign correspondent, but that was not considered appropriate for a woman in Communist Bulgaria when she was young. “You were expected to be a good and loyal wife,” she said.

Ms. Bokova, a former foreign minister and Bulgaria’s ambassador to France and Unesco, joined the Communist-era Foreign Ministry as the daughter of a government favorite who edited a state newspaper. Ms. Bokova said she had been a member of the Communist Party as a young person in Bulgaria out of necessity rather than by choice and, like her country, had long since shown a strong commitment to democracy.

Ms. Bokova is a popular member of the Socialist Party, formerly Bulgaria’s Communist party, now in opposition, and she studied at elite Moscow schools. She specialized in the United States and arms control and was foreign minister from November 1996 to February 1997.


Most recent positions

From June 2005 to November 2009

  • Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Bulgaria to France and 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 the “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 Ambassadeurs”


Parliamentary experience

June 2001: Member of Parliament

  • Deputy Chairperson of the Foreign Policy, Defence and Security Committee
  • Member of the European Integration Committee
  • Deputy Chairperson of the Joint Parliamentary Committee Bulgaria – European Union


Professional experience

  • February 1997 – September 1997
    Adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Minister
  • November 1996 – February 1997
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • June 1995 – February 1997
    State Secretary on European Integration
  • September 1995
    Deputy head of the Delegation of Bulgaria to the Fourth World
    Conference on Women “Action for Equality, Development and Peace” (Beijing, China)
  • October 1991- March 1992
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia
    European Security Department
    First Secretary
  • June 1990 – Oct. 1991
    Member of the Constituent National Assembly
  • August 1986 – January 1990
    Adviser to the Minister, First Secretary, Sofia
  • January 1984 – September 1986
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UN Department – Third and Second Secretary
  • September 1982 – January 1984
    Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the UN, New York – Third Secretary
  • January 1977 – September 1982
    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sofia – Attaché and Third Secretary


Education and studies

  • Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government Executive Programme in Leadership and Economic Development (November – December 1999)
  • NATO fellow, Programme for Central and Eastern Europe on democratic institutions focusing on the national and legal mechanism for the protection of minorities (September 1992 – December 1994)
  • University of Maryland, School of Public Affairs, Washington
    Ford Foundation fellow, Programme on the US foreign policy decision-making process (January – August 1989, USA)
  • Moscow State Institute of International Relations
    MBA in international relations (1976)
  • English Secondary School, Sofia (1971)


Main publications

  • Bulgaria and Ethnic Tensions in the Balkans, Mediterranean Quarterly, January 1991
  • Monitoring Bulgaria’s Accession to the European Union, European Policy Forum, Annual publications 1999, 2000, 2001
  • Integration of South-Eastern Europe into the European Mainstream, Journal of South East and Black Sea Studies, October 2000
  • Einbahnstrasse EU-Erweiterung, Schüren Verlag, Marburg, Germany, September 2001
  • Numerous articles on foreign policy and European integration issues.



  • Many distinctions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria for contributing to the development and endorsement of Bulgarian foreign policy
  • Laureate of the Golden Lyre distinction of the Union of Bulgarian Musicians and Dancers for the promotion of Bulgarian music and performance art in France.



Fluent in English, French Russian and Spanish

Davos Annual Meeting 2011 – Irina Bokova – UNESCO



A Celebration of Women™

pays this Tribute to a woman who Rose Above her Adversity,


and one that never stops.


Brava Irina!


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