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Irina Bokova from Bulgaria nominated to lead UNESCO

Bulgarian diplomat Irina Gueorguieva Bokova nominated as first woman to lead UNESCO
Bulgarian diplomat Irina Gueorguieva Bokova nominated as first woman to lead UNESCO

Michel Ravassard via UNESCO

Bulgarian diplomat Irina Gueorguieva Bokova, 57, has become the first woman to be nominated to lead the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). On 22 September she beat Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni in a tight race that went through five rounds of voting.

According to news reports, Hosni was the frontrunner for months. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had raised concerns about his candidacy, noting his poor record on free expression as Minister since 1987.

Hosni and Bokova had an equal amount of votes on Monday night; and UNESCO rules dictate that if Tuesday's vote had also been a draw, officials would have picked a name at random from a bag. The final vote among UNESCO Executive Board members was 31 to 27.

Bokova, the Ambassador of Bulgaria to France and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, is also the first Eastern European to lead UNESCO. "Ideas drive humanity forward, and I think UNESCO is about that," she told the Associated Press. She said she would "work very hard so that UNESCO does more in the fields of science, innovation and technology."

The nomination will be submitted for approval by the General Conference on 15 October, which brings together representatives of UNESCO's 193 member states. Bokova will be replacing Koichiro Matsuura of Japan.

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