A career diplomat from Bulgaria has become the first woman to be voted in as head of the United Nations agency for culture and education.
Irina Bokova was the surprise winner of a closely fought election, beating her Egyptian rival by 31 votes to 27. On winning she said: “I have never believed in the idea of a clash of civilisations or differences. UNESCO stands for tolerance, dialogue and cultural diversity.” Bokova has an impeccable CV, can speak several languages and is a former Bulgarian ambassador to France. But her win over Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny has shocked his supporters. Although a controversial figure – he was forced to apologise after threatening to burn Israeli books – Hosny had been favourite for the job. Although still needing her position to be validated, Bokova should be confirmed as UNESCO director-general next month.