Paris, 17 July 2015 – UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, received the National Order of the Legion of Honour, the highest decoration in France, from French President François Hollande, in recognition of her work, both as Ambassador of Bulgaria to France since 2005 and as Director-General of UNESCO since 2009, for the promotion cultural diversity and the protection of cultural heritage, as well as her commitment to the fight against ignorance and fanaticism, for girls' and women's empowerment through education and for the protection of cultural heritage, especially in countries in conflict, like Mali, Syria and Iraq. The ceremony took place at the Elysée Palace in Paris.
“UNESCO and France share the same universal values like respect for human rights and human dignity, tolerance, respect for cultural diversity, education for peace and sustainable development,” underlined President Hollande. “You went to Haiti after the calamitous earthquake, to Pakistan after the heavy floods, to the refugee camps in Lebanon and twice to Bagdad to safeguard its cultural heritage. I have seen you in action,” the President said further.
“We went together to Timbuktu, immediately after the liberation of the city […] you promised to rebuild the mausoleums, and two years later, the mausoleums are restored. You set an example for women in the world who have the courage to take responsibilities. That is why France honors you today and raises you to the rank of Commander of the Order of the Legion of Honour,” declared President Hollande at the award ceremony.
"I am very happy and proud to receive this award, which carries the ideals and principles that have made France such a special country, so dear to my heart," said the Director-General. "Together, France and UNESCO defend today a certain idea of peace -- not only peace against war, but the lasting peace that is built through cultural dialogue, mutual understanding, and respect for human rights", concluded Irina Bokova.