Irina Bokova Wishes Users of a Fascinating Travel in the World of UNESCO

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 UNESCO found a new director – a representative of Bulgaria Irina Bokova officially took up her post of Director General of this international organization. Shortly before this event she had given a press conference for Russian journalists via video bridge with a studio in RIA Novosti. It was one of the first meetings with press after her nomination. And, probably, it is no mere chance that just with the Russian one, because Irina Georgieva Bokova lived in Moscow more than one year, and received her Diploma of Higher Education in Moscow Institute of International Relations. Many things connect her with our country. “This is my youth,” says Mrs. Bokova, “And memories of it are the most indelible.”

“I am very proud that I have become the first woman to be elected for the post of Director General,” said Irina Bokova. “For me UNESCO has been always one of the most important institutions of the United Nations, which is seeking to become a guarantor of all we call spiritual, intellectual and moral values of the modern world. I think that its significance will only become greater as the years go by. UNESCO’s work is being carried out on several levels: this is both a dialogue between cultures and international cooperation in the field of education, science, communication. In spite of the fact that the organization’s budget against its big ambitions is very modest, however it could achieve a leading position in the field of education and culture – this, perhaps, is the most apparent and impressive part of our activity. I expect that in the near future UNESCO will become the same leader in the field of science too.”

Irina Bokova mentioned two tendencies in the modern world. On the one hand, this is the increasing globalization, closer contacts between countries, wide exchange of information, on the other hand – more profound internecine quarrelling in certain regions and countries. Societies, according to her, “are losing their foundation, their roots”, and in this context UNESCO has considerable possibilities to contribute to the maintenance of balance both in the world in whole, and in certain social media.

In her interviews Irina Bokova more than once emphasized the necessity of wide reforms in UNESCO. During the press conference she also dwelled on the following issue: “I have very serious intentions to make UNESCO more efficient organization, in order that it should correspond to expectations of many countries, above all developing ones. I must say that my predecessor Koitiro Matsuura has already begun such reforms. It was just under him that the process of decentralization started. There are also ideas of serious redistribution of the existing funds we have. We intend to substantially reduce administration costs, we are going to revise the two year budget, and we are doing it now: 5% of present expenses for the administrative machine have already passed to programming in the field of education, first of all in the African continent. I think, this process must continue.”

At the same time, she noted, UNESCO has no possibility to invest large amounts from its budget. So one should use more off-budget funds to solve priority tasks, mobilize considerable financial resources both of World Bank and regional banks for development, and establish active partnership with the private sector, non-government organizations. According to Bokova, UNESCO has great possibilities in this respect.

Speaking about reforms taking place in the whole system of the United Nations, Irina Bokova underlined that one of the main goals on today’s agenda is to find our own place in these structural transformations. She told about discussions taking place in the international community concerning decentralization of international institutions’ activity and said that now in UNESCO a review of the work of all regional bureaus is being prepared. On basis of this analysis, decisions optimizing their activity will be adopted in a short time. “Some of bureaus will maybe extend the range of their competence, set themselves new tasks. I find it very important that the process of decentralization should continue,” she said.

Another very important problem, Director General intends to stress during her occupation of this post, is the world science development: “The global economic crisis showed all of us that science and new technologies will help us to come out of the crisis, they will allow to “save” the countries being today in a difficult social and economic situation. Just progress in the spheres of education and science will help to cope with problems facing mankind. For UNESCO they are priority fields, but it can do more, mobilize the scientific community, and contribute to exchange of scientific information.”

New Director General also spoke on other questions asked her during the press conference. Particularly, concerning the maintenance of historical aspect of St. Petersburg in connection with plans of building a skyscraper on Okhta and about the grievous state in the field of education on Palestinian land and in Iraq, about collaboration with the Russian Orthodox Church and about the Year of Bulgaria being held now in Russia, told of her first foreign trips to be taken in the coming months in her new capacity, noting thereby that she would visit Moscow with pleasure again.

Especially Irina Bokova dwelled on the earlier expressed by her conception of new humanism in the XXI century, which, probably, in many respects tilted the balance of the organization member states to her candidacy’s advantage. “During the election campaign I visited 47 countries,” she said. “I have seen mass poverty of population, serious socio-economic problems, but I also saw the states that can use all blessings of civilization. I saw a striking difference between poor and rich. To my opinion, in the early XXI century the mankind needs more solidarity, it must show more tolerance, more humanism, more respect for each other, establish dialogue between different cultures, but at the same time to encourage cultural diversity lest that the world should become monotonous. And it seemed to me, without pretending to any philosophical generalization, that all this can be expressed in one word – humanism.”

And when Director General was told by correspondent that our portal’s opening will be held soon, she wished its writing staff and its users fascinating travels in the world of UNESCO. “I am glad to hear that there will be such a portal,” she noted, “Because I find it very important that UNESCO activity should draw a wide response in mass media. All the more so because people know about it not as much as we would like. If one tells more about our organization, then states will begin to pay it more attention as well and it will be possible to mobilize the world public to solve the burning issues of the day – then we will be able to jointly more actively respond to challenges of time. I would like to establish an ongoing dialogue with journalists, nongovernmental organizations, wide social circles, because in common we will be able to easier find their responses.”

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From the files of


Irina Georgieva Bokova was born in Sofia on July 12, 1952 into a family known to the Bulgarian policy. Her father, Georgi Bokov was one of the leaders of the Bulgarian Communist party, chief editor of the Bulgarian Communist Party’s official press organ, the daily “Rabotnichesco delo” and the Party CC secretary.

Irina Bokova in 1976 graduated from MGIMO (Moscow State University of Foreign Affairs) by profession “International relations”. Since 1977 she worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of People's Republic of Bulgaria, where she held various posts in the central office and was responsible for cooperation with the United Nations.

In 1982—1984 she worked at the Permanent Mission of People's Republic of Bulgaria to the United Nations. In 1990 she was elected deputy of the Great People's Assembly.
In 1992—1994 she got training under NATO program for Central and Eastern Europe, with a specialization in protection of minorities.
In 1995 she held a position of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria and Government Secretary on the European integration in Jean Videnov's government.
In 1996 during presidential election she was a candidate for vice president opposite the socialist candidate Ivan Marazov.
In 1996 she was offered a portfolio of Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria. She held foreign minister's post from November 1996 till February 1997.

After resignation Irina Bokova continued to remain actively engaged in public activities, becoming a leader of the created by her European political forum designed to contribute to Bulgaria’s European integration and popularization of European values in Bulgaria.

In 2001 Irina Bokova was elected deputy to the Bulgarian People's Assembly. During her mandate in 2001—2005 she was a Secretary of the Parliamentary group “Coalition for Bulgaria".

In 2005 she was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bulgaria to France and the country’s Plenipotentiary Representative to UNESCO.

On September 22, 2009 she was recommended by UNESCO's Executive Board for the post of Director General. Bokova’s candidacy was approved by UNESCO's General Conference on October 15, 2009