Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova is a Bulgarian politician and diplomat. She served as Director General of UNESCO from 2009 to 2017. She graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, and has also studied at the University of Maryland and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She began her career at the United Nations Department of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1977. She was subsequently appointed to the Bulgarian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Twice elected to the Bulgarian Parliament, she served as interim Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1996 and 1997. She has been Bulgaria’s ambassador to France, Monaco and UNESCO, in addition to representing the president of her country within the International Organization of La Francophonie. Bokova is particularly renowned for her commitment to the integration of Bulgaria within the European Union.

Elected as Director General of UNESCO in 2009, she is the first woman and the first person from Eastern Europe to hold this position. During her two terms, she worked for the organization's major causes such as education for all, gender equality, scientific cooperation and cultural dialogue. She has received numerous honors from different countries, as well as several honorary doctorates from major universities.

The following audio excerpts are from an interview with Irina Bokova by Christina Cameron and Eng Sengsavang in May 2018 in Paris. Bokova recounts her involvement as Director General of UNESCO in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention. She presents a nuanced and critical look at the political dimension inherent in the protection of cultural heritage and advocates values ??of dialogue, cultural diversity, human dignity and mutual aid. She also addresses the new challenges facing UNESCO today, such as intentional destruction of heritage by extremists and the importance of youth engagement and civil society.

UNESCO, World Heritage Oral Archives, Canada Research Chair on Built Heritage, University of Montreal, audio interview of Irina Bokova by Christina Cameron and Eng Sengsavang, Paris, France, 18 May 2018.