Irina Bokova could be considered lucky once she is formally approved as the next UNESCO director general. The Bulgarian diplomat won't have to move or adjust to life in glamorous Paris, where the U.N. agency's headquarters are located: She has been her country's ambassador to France since June 2005.
Bokova emerged victorious after a hard-fought race for the United Nations cultural, scientific and education agency against eight other candidates, including Farouk Hosny, Ivonne A-Baki and Sospeter Muhongo. Devex interviewed those three candidates in the past weeks. UNESCO's 193-member General Conference is expected to approve Bokova for the job in mid-October.
Is UNESCO as lucky as Bokova?
With her diplomatic background, Bokova certainly appears qualified for the job. She has been Bulgaria's permanent UNESCO delegate since the country joined the organization in 2007, and has served as deputy chairperson of its Group of Francophone Countries.
Looking back is not as important as looking forward now, of course. So what can UNESCO - and the international aid community - expect from its new leader?
She has pledged to coordinate with member states, nonprofits and the intellectual community to streamline UNESCO operations and focus on a reduced set of priorities. She wants to create a Scientific Advisory Committee made up of luminaries in the field that will help to address key challenges such as climate change, biodiversity, mitigation of natural disasters, water resources management, energy and pandemics. She plans to kick-start a debate about the role of culture in achieving the Millennium Development Goals. She is advocating for "more coherent coordination of good governance, quality education, financing education and reducing disparities based on gender or income," and wants to press development partners to "deliver on commitments and ensure the timely flow of adequate resources through various bilateral and multilateral aid channels in accordance with the Doha Declaration."
Would Bokova's planned reduction of UNESCO priorities prompt job cuts? How would this affect the organization and U.N. in general?
What specific steps would she take to include culture in the MDGs? How significant would this be for international development? Would she be able to compel donors to follow through on funding pledges?
Would UNESCO be lucky to have Bokova as its director general? That surely remains to be seen.