15 OCTOBER 2009
|NEW UNESCO DIRECTOR GENERAL. IRINA BOKOVA STAMPED
BULGARIA'S NAME ON THE U.N. LEADERS' MAP.
Irina Bokova is not only the first woman nor the first Eastern European to take charge of UNESCO. She is
also the first Bulgarian ever to head any U.N. Agency, Fund, or Program. Through a brilliant strategy or sincere good
luck, she single-handedly placed Bulgaria on the U.N. leaders' map.
Her country has been a U.N. member since around the time she was born. Yet, regardless of many distinguished
Bulgarian diplomats, very few were enabled to display their inherent talents on the international arena. Admittedly,
we all admired soccer player Hristo Stoichkov. But after a while even the Golden Ball superstar got fed up with his own
Whatever was said about the end of history could be somehow reversed. A fateful election of an intelligent
compassionate woman to the U.N. Education, Science and Culture Organization is in fact the beginning of history, for
Bulgaria and for UNESCO. A country which was always a crossroads of cultures and civilizations, with its hospitable
people, unique literature and exquisite music now has a forum, not only to display its past but to project its future.
For UNESCO, a talented leader who as a former Permanent Representative, is familiar with its potential as well as its
limitations, will help steer it on a realistic yet principled road. She now has to work with all members and with the
numerous civic groups that play a pivotal role in UNESCO's daily operation. Indeed, it is most likely that Ms.
Bokova had made her contact with those influential groups around Place de Fontenoy prior to her successful selection.
She comes with consensus support. Although her main competitor was Egypt's Minister of Culture, Egypt's culture and
politics are much wider than Farouk Husni, who indeed congratulated Ms. Bokova. Anyway, as the East and West met to
support her, the Arab world would certainly welcome someone from a country that has always been a trustworthy special
It is only hoped that Ms. Bokova will be given the means to sharpen the focus on getting results as she tries to
build a practical bridge among cultures and a common ground between different educational systems.