On the 10th of November 2017, during a heart-warming and impressive ceremony organised at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris, the entire family of the International Organisation, high-ranking officers, Goodwill Ambassadors, UNESCO Artists for Peace and many other prominent figures from all over the world came to pay tribute to Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, as she stepped down at the end of her term in office, after 8 consecutive years.
The event commenced with the projection of highlights from the swearing in of Ms. Bokova in 2009, as the Director-General of UNESCO, the first woman to have reached this rank since the establishment of this Organisation, as well as moments from her operation in all four corners of the globe, and the commitments she undertook during her eight-year term.
The most touching moment came when Ms. Bokova herself took the floor, clearly flooded with emotion, to speak about the “New Humanism and the quiet strength of UNESCO”. After warmly thanking everyone present for the honour they bestowed on her by coming to this event and her associates for the outstanding ceremony they organised, as well as for the fact that all through the years they worked so creatively, always standing by her side, she noted: “I see tonight parading before my eyes 8 years of commitment to Peace… The faces of the mothers and their daughters in the schools of Kabul that were funded by UNESCO… the faces of the refugees who share the same dream for knowledge, dignity and protection of the global heritage as a tool of dialogue… the rebuilding of the Timbuktu monuments… UNESCO is a unique place, where creativity, sensitivity to the services of dialogue, cultural diversity and cooperation are served… UNESCO supports the ideas that change the world… As my term ends I look back to the progress we made within eight years…”.
Zeinab Badawi, BBC journalist, and Eric Falt, Director of External Relations of the organisation, went on to speak in detail about Ms. Bokova’s commitment to Education and Gender Equality, and her achievements in the field of Culture and against violent extremism, noting, among other things, that “during her term, we added 183 new monuments the UNESCO cultural heritage list, whereas our organisation’s activity in regions where cultural heritage monuments were destroyed, such as Syria and Iraq, was significantly reinforced. They also spoke about Ms. Bokova’s personality, her core values, her integrity, industriousness, insight and dynamism, her social awareness and her responsiveness to the challenges of our times.
The event continued with the projection of a video produced by UNESCO, with testimonies from prominent figures and close associates of Ms. Bokova, including the testimony of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis: “Irina Bokova, Ms. Vardinoyannis said, is an inspired leader, deeply dedicated to the ideals of UNESCO. Her term is full of achievements driven by her vision on a “new humanism”. And among them, the one that is closest to my heart, her fight against the “cultural genocide” and the smuggling of antiquities. Irina Bokova managed to link the destruction of the global heritage with the humanitarian crisis, and succeeded, for the first time in the history of the United Nations, in having the inextricable relationship between culture and global security recognised in decisions of the United Nations.”
The event included spectacular performances by artists from across the globe, including the World Orchestra for Peace and the Orchestra H2O Sonidos de la Tierra, and a stunning music-dance performance by the famous Beijing Soul Inspiring Disabled Art Troupe.
The event concluded with a brief but very moving farewell by the 10th Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova.
From Greece, the event was attended by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, who with obvious emotion, congratulated Ms. Bokova for her historical work and thanked her for their creative cooperation all these years, and for the friendship she has bestowed on her.
On the side of Ms. Bokova stood, for the entire event, the new Director-General of UNESCO, the former Minister of Culture of France, Ms. Audrey Azoulay. Ms. Azoulay was congratulated for her election by Ms. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis and other eminent personalities who were supporting Ms. Bokova.
The event was honoured, among others, by the presence of the Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Maria Teresa and her daughter Princess Alexandra, Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco, Aga Khan, the Princess Chantal of France, Princess Dana Firas of Jordan, the Foreign Minister of Paraguay Eladio Loizaga, the former Governor of Canada and Secretary General of La Francophonie, Ms. Michaëlle Jean, the head of the OECD Angel Gurría, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassadors: Jean Michel Jarre, Metin Arditi, Ara Abramian, Maha El-Khalil Chalabi, Miguel Angel Estrella, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Nasser D. Khalili, Maria Francesca Merloni, Kitín Muñoz Valcarlez, Ute-Henriette Ohoven, Andrés Roemer, and Zurab Tsereteli, UNESCO Artists for Peace Hedva Ser, Seidnaly Sidahmed Alphadi, Amri Aminov, Elisso Bolkvadze, Chico Bouchikhi, Alain Husson-Dumoutier, Charles Kaye, Setsuko Klossowska de Rola, Serguei Markarov, Ahlem Mosteghanemi, Luis Szarán and Monique Ventujol, Honorary Ambassadors and Special Envoys of UNESCO Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, and many others.
At the occasion of the tribute ceremony, Ms. Bokova hosted a luncheon for a few close associates and friends, including Ms. Marianna V. Vardinoyannis, to thank them in person for their contribution and support in her work these past 8 years.