Her majesty Irina Bokova won today the race for General Director of UNESCO with 31 votes out of a total of 58. During her visit to Greece at the beginning of the summer Mrs. Bokova gave an exclusive interview to GRReporter. Irina Bokova managed to open up a space in her busy program and we met half an hour before an official reception, which was organized in her honor in King George hotel. Right away we found a quiet place in the restaurant of the hotel, where Mrs. Bokova spoke of her priorities for the modern role of the organization, for the role of women and about interesting meetings she went to during her stay in Greece.
The interview was taken by Marina Nikolova
First I would like to start with the question why did you decide to become a candidate for the position of a General Director of UNESCO?
This is a decision made by the Bulgarian government and I feel extremely honored. I believe it is a huge responsibility for me as well that I am the candidate. First because Bulgaria is one of the oldest European countries – many civilizations have lived on our land, which have contributed to the world and European cultural-historic spiritual development. So for me it seems very natural for Bulgaria to be believed as one of the countries, which are engines of UNESCO in this regard.
Second is the fact that Bulgaria is country with a tolerant and multicultural tradition. A country, which is on the cross road between north and south and east and west. We have always proven that we can live in a cultural and ethnic diversity. I believe we have given many examples in history about how we can preserve this cultural diversity…how we can be tolerant to others.
Third is the fact that Bulgaria has an extremely active history in UNESCO. It would be enough to mention that the last general conference, outside the headquarters in Paris, was in Sofia in 1986. This is a fact, which is remembered and respected. When I arrived in Paris, I met many colleagues-ambassadors of mine, who said: “As young diplomats we were in Sofia, we remember…” Two weeks ago I invited a group of diplomats to Sofia – 60 people from 44 countries. We visited few cultural monuments in Bulgaria, which are included in the world cultural heritage list. Then, we passed by NDK (National Palace of Culture) and many of them recognized the building. Right away they remembered that the UNESCO general conference took place there.
In other words, there are many reasons why we believe it is suitable for Bulgaria to be part of this race. Of course, last but not least is the fact that there has not been a candidate for General Director from Eastern Europe until now. We decided that if we spoke of our region, Bulgaria is the best positioned country compared to the rest, to be e representative for Central and Eastern Europe – to represent this region in UNESCO.
In connection to this, what will your cause be, your personal signature, if you are to be chosen for the position?
My personal priority is not that different that what is mentioned in the UNESCO statute, namely that UNESCO is the soul and the conscience of UN and of humanity. It is the sole organization, which deals with culture. It is called upon to approve the values of humanity, of tolerance, of understanding, of dialogue – UNESCO is not an agency for technical development aid. UNESCO is something more than a separate program or a small project. UNESCO is inextricable bound with the experience of a world conflict, as it was the Second World War, transferred into our time. And I believe that especially now, when we are living in a time of crisis and globalization, which is definitely a positive phenomenon that creates uncertainty and many communities seek shoulder to lean on, UNESCO is the organization, which should give many answers. I believe that my priority will be exactly to seek for a new type of humanity, participating in which will be the developed and the developing countries, in a dynamic, constantly changing world that we live in. I believe that UNESCO needs to adapt itself and give those spiritual answers about globalization to people seeking it.
Will the financial crisis influence the activities of the organization?
Unfortunately, yes. It is already being influenced, because in many areas we already see cutting development aid, cutting some programs – UNESCO as an organization has a very limited budget. The financial resources are more than limited. UNESCO has a big resource of extrabudget means, which is divided in relation to its priorities. Mainly education. For a big part of humanity and especially for the developing world, education is the number one priority. I would say that not only in the developing countries but also in the developed ones, there almost isn’t a government, which in such times of crisis does not look for part of the answers in improving education. I believe that UNESCO needs to become a leader when it comes to innovations, technology and the connection between all levels of education – mainly science and researches, which are the answer of the current crisis.
How do you think the role of the organization will change in a world where virtual reality is taking over reality more and more?