Irina Bokova

Former Director General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Irina Bokova is a leading champion of the power of intercultural dialogue to address society’s pressing problems. The first woman to lead UNESCO, Bokova helmed the organization from 2009-2017 and was a key force behind the creation of International Jazz Day in 2011. Prior to her service at UNESCO, she served two terms in parliament as well as interim Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs in her native Bulgaria. She also served as Bulgaria’s Ambassador to France, Monaco and UNESCO and as Personal Representative of the President of the Republic of Bulgaria to the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. She has been on the Forbes list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women several times. Fluent in five languages, she is a vocal advocate of European unity, gender parity and education. Bokova has successfully pushed forward a strong U.N. agenda for better preservation of humanity’s cultural heritage. In particular, she and UNESCO have proven successful in criminalizing the illegal trade in cultural artifacts and in prosecuting those who willfully destroy parts of cultural history. A longtime advocate for the Institute, Bokova joined the Board of Trustees in 2019.