Chair, and Former Director-General, UNESCO
Irina Bokova, born in Sofia, Bulgaria, has been two terms the Director-General of UNESCO from 2009 to 2017. She is the first woman to lead the Organisation.
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.
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, particularly Goal 4 on “Inclusive and equitable quality education and life-long learning for all », gender equality, the protection of the world’s cultural heritage against the destruction by extremists in Mali, Syria and Iraq. As a result, the UN Security Council adopted in 2017 the landmark Resolution 2347 declaring for the first time the link between peace and security on one hand, 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 across the world and is Doctor honoris causa of leading universities across the world, such as King’s College and University of Edinburgh, UK, Paris-Sud Saclay, France, Boston University, US, Catholic University of Milan, Italy, Tonji University, China, among others.
In 2020 she is also elected International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the category of Scientific, Cultural and Non-profit Leadership.
Currently, she is a Member of the Board of “Ban Ki Moon Centre for Global Citizens”, Member of the Concordia Leadership Council, New York, Global Champion of UN “Education Cannot Wait” Fund, Member of the Strategic Committee of the Paris School of International Affairs /PSIA/, SciencePo, and Lecturer on cultural diplomacy, Visiting Lecturer at the University of Geneva, Miwon Scholar of Peace Studies at Kyung-Hee University, Seoul, Member of Leaders For Peace, France, Member of the Board of Open Diplomacy Institute and l’Institut de relations internationales et stratégiques (IRIS), Paris, Member of the International Advisory Council of the Beijing Forum at the University of Beijing, among other activities.