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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 at Harvard University.
Irina Bokova began her career at the United Nations Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria. She was elected twice Member of Parliament and served as First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Government's first Secretary for European affairs.
Before being elected as Director General of UNESCO, from 2005 to 2009 Irina Bokova was 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 was actively engaged in the UN efforts to adopt Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, including quality education for all, gender equality, the protection of the world’s cultural heritage. She actively promotes dialogue among cultures and mutual respect against violent extremism and terrorism.
She was particularly active in defence of cultural heritage in conflict in Mali, Syria and Iraq and in denouncing extremists’ destruction of heritage as a tool of war. As a result, the UN Security Council adopted several landmark resolutions on the link between maintaining peace, security and the protection of cultural heritage.
Irina Bokova was on the Forbes List of the world's most influential women for 2016. She has received state distinctions from more than 40 countries, and is Doctor honoris causa and /or Honorary degrees of leading universities across the world, among which King’s College, Durham University and University of Edinburgh, UK, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy, University of Geneva, Switzerland, Tongji University, Shanghai, China, and others.
Currently, she is a Member of the Strategic Committee of the Paris School of International Affairs /PSIA/ at SciencePo, France and lecturer on cultural diplomacy, visiting professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, Honorary Dean of the Humanitas College and honorary professor of Peace Studies, of Kyung-Hee University, Seoul, Member of the Concordia Leadership Council, New York, Member of the Board of “Ban Ki Moon Centre for Global Citizens, among others.
In addition to her mother tongue, she speaks English, French, Spanish and Russian.