Irina Bokova, born on 12 July 1952 in Sofia (Bulgaria) has been the Director-General of UNESCO since 15 November 2009. She is the first woman to have been elected head of the Organization.
Having graduated from Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and studied at the University of Maryland (Washington) and the John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University), Irina Bokova joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria in 1977, where she was responsible for human rights issues. Appointed in charge of political and legal affairs at the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the United Nations in New York, she was also a member of the Bulgarian Delegation at the United Nations conferences on the equality of women in Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995). As Member of Parliament (1990-1991 and 2001-2005), she participated in the drafting of Bulgaria’s new Constitution, which contributed significantly to the country’s accession to the European Union. She launched the first seminar of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on the European Convention on Human Rights.
Irina Bokova was Minister for Foreign Affairs and Coordinator of Bulgaria-European Union relations (1995-1997) and subsequently Ambassador of Bulgaria (2005-2009) to France, Monaco and UNESCO and Personal Representative of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to the "Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie" (OIF). While serving as State Secretary on European Integration and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ms Bokova always promoted European integration. As an active member of many international expert networks and of civil society and, in particular, as Chairperson and founding member of the European Policy Forum, she has worked to overcome European divisions and to foster the values of dialogue, diversity, human dignity and human rights.
Irina Bokova has received doctor honoris causa from many prestigious universities across the world.
In addition to her mother tongue, Irina Bokova speaks English, French, Spanish and Russian.