The session of the UNESCO Executive Board last Friday was canceled by the organization’s Director General, Bulgarian Irina Bokova, on grounds she had to attend the funeral of Shimon Peres. Bokova was the only Head of a UN agency who attended the ceremonies in Jerusalem.

Diplomats from the organization, however, believe that the cancellation of the session was due to the included in the agenda discussion on the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Focusing on the subject by the international organization is not liked by Russia, which unofficially supports the candidacy of the “orphaned” Bokova to head the United Nations.

After Bulgaria officially nominated the Vice-President of the European Commission, Kristalina Georgieva, Bokova refused to withdraw from the race and is now running for UN Secretary-General on her own behalf and as an independent candidate with the tacit support of Russia and its allies.

There is also the question with what resources Irina Bokova is continuing her campaign since Bulgaria no longer supports her and no longer pays to promote her candidacy.

Transcripts of the meetings show that in July 2016, the Executive Board voiced concerns that Irina Bokova’s campaign for UN Secretary General could turn into a conflict of interest. The representative of Guinea has asked this question twice before receiving an answer. (See here p.70 paragraph 16 and 19.1)

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In her reply ,Irina Bokova has said that she could not speak about her candidacy for the post of UN Secretary-General because she might be accused of campaigning, and in any case, it was premature to discuss the outcome. Her dedication to UNESCO was total. She had complied with the Organization’s rules by informing the Member States and had sent a note to UNESCO staff members to ensure that they did not get involved in her campaign so that the Secretariat could focus on the work of the organization. The Government of Bulgaria, which had submitted her candidacy, would do all that was necessary.

However, the situation has now changed, after the Bulgarian government formally withdrew her nomination. Bivol has already published evidence that Bulgarian female employees in Bokova’s office as UNESCO Head, who are of retirement age, have stayed to work exclusively for her campaign for the United Nations.

Bulgaria may withdraw Bokova from UNESCO as well

Bokova’s stubbornness to stay in the race for Secretary-General of the United Nations was presented as an act against which Bulgaria cannot do anything. According to the rules for selecting the UN Secretary-General, it was not possible for a candidacy to be withdrawn from any other than the candidate herself – explained the government.

It is not true that Bulgaria has no levers to demonstrate that it is stripping Bokova of its confidence. De facto, she is already working against her own country and is obstructing the official nomination of Kristalina Georgieva. The government has the right to officially withdraw Bokova from her director’s position in UNESCO. For this purpose, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov may request an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Board of the organization.

We will see in the next two days whether this will happen before the vote on 5 October to prevent the actual sabotage of the Bulgarian candidature by Bokova, or whether the telephone shuttles between Bulgarian Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, have ordained otherwise.


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