October 14, 2013
I was lucky to obtain the first big interview of Irina Bokova, the UNESCO Director General, following her re-election for another four years as head of the biggest UN agency for culture, science and education.
Bokova was in my opinion very happy, because her re-election had not been an easy one. She has had two challengers, and at least one of them tried to inspire a smear campaign against her in some media.
Anyway, on 5 October she was re-elected (or nominated by the UNESCO Executive Board, by obtaining the majority of votes in the first round). But it seems that the times when the second mandate of the UNESCO Director General was taken for granted are now long gone.
One of the main challenges of Bokova during her first mandate has been the financial crisis following the decision of the USA not to pay their membership fee, after the UNESCO Executive Board elected Palestine member of this organisation. This deprived UNESCO of 22% of its budget, but Bokova managed to get the organisation working.
In spite of the sensitive political issue, Bokova has managed to remain in good terms with the US, and photos of her meetings with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton attest of that.
Moreover, thanks to Bokova UNESCO is doing well in terms of public outreach, after a long period of poor communication.
I’m happy that in the 20 minutes we could speak we touched a wide range of issues, including UNESCO’s role in defining the post-2015 UN Millennium Development Goals.
But more than everything, I was happy that by speaking to Bokova, I could present to the EurActiv readers Bulgaria at its best. Too often my country is associated with negative categories such as corruption, democratic malfunction, poverty and despair.
I didn’t have the time to discuss this with Bokova, but I think she is well placed to be the next UN Secretary General of the United Nations, when the term of Ban Ki-moon will expire in December 2016.
It is expected that the next UN SecGen would be from Eastern Europe, and it is high time that the world organisation is led by a woman. A wise and energetic Bulgarian woman on the top of the world!