The leading candidate to be the next Secretary General of the United Nations is a Bulgarian woman whose work on Holocaust education has won international acclaim.

Irina Bokova, in London this week, is Director General of UNESCO (the U.N’s education, scientific and cultural organisation) and one of the favourites to take over from outgoing U.N chief Ban Ki-moon.

Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova

Known as a leading champion in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism, she is credited with having spearheaded UNESCO’s activities on Holocaust remembrance and awareness, and is the first Director-General of the organisation to appoint a Special Envoy for Holocaust Education.

Bokova’s appearance in London this week was to ask for increased investment in education for Syrian youth, highlighting the importance of education in preventing radicalisation.

It comes after she helped mark Holocaust Memorial Day by inaugurating two exhibits – one with the Wiener Library in London, the other with the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

She also announced the launch of a new research project to analyse the content of textbooks and pupils’ perceptions of the Holocaust across all European countries.

“UNESCO was born in the wake of the Second World War, in response to the destruction and the genocide of the Jewish people carried out by the Nazi regime,” she said.

“Teaching the history of the Holocaust is more important than ever, to fight against youth radicalisation and overcome violent extremism. We must let nothing pass us by. Let us share knowledge, intelligence and dignity against barbarity. This is our way of honouring the memory of the dead and alerting the living.”