Ms. Irina Bokova, born on 12 July 1952 in Sofia (Bulgaria), is a Bulgarian diplomat and politician, and 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 the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, the University of Maryland and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, in 1977 Irina Bokova joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, where she was responsible for human rights issues. She was appointed in charge of political and legal affairs at the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria to the United Nations. Elected as a deputy of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (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.
Ms. Bokova was Minister for Foreign Affairs and Coordinator of Bulgaria-European Union relations (1995-1997). Subsequently she was also Ambassador of Bulgaria (2005-2009) to France, Monaco and UNESCO. 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.