Actor and Humanitarian Liam Neeson was today announced as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, reflecting his long commitment to help save and improve the lives of children around the world affected by poverty, disease, abuse and neglect.
The Oscar-nominated actor – perhaps best known for his leading roles in Schindler’s List, Taken and the recently released Unknown – has since 1997 provided strong support to the international children’s organization in part through his role as a National Ambassador for UNICEF in Ireland.
“Liam Neeson is not only a passionate dramatic actor, he is a deeply compassionate humanitarian actor,” said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. “UNICEF is very lucky that he is choosing to use his time and talent to support the world’s most vulnerable children, and we thank him for accepting this new role as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.”
In regards to the appointment, Mr. Neeson said, “I am deeply honoured to have been asked by UNICEF to become a Goodwill Ambassador and am committed to working with UNICEF to help children overcome poverty, violence, disease and discrimination across the world.”
Mr. Neeson was the public face of the Change for Good partnership between UNICEF Ireland and Aer Lingus between 1997 and 2007.
In 2005, Mr. Neeson travelled to Mozambique where he visited a health centre to see UNICEF’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme; a hospital to learn about the treatment provided for children living with HIV/AIDS; and a centre providing shelter to abused, abandoned and orphaned children.
Most recently, Mr. Neeson has been supporting UNICEF’s “Believe in Zero” Campaign in Ireland and the United States. This campaign highlights the plight of the 8 million children who are not reaching their fifth birthday every year and is raising urgently needed funding for UNICEF ‘child survival’ programmes.
“For over fifteen years, Liam Neeson has been working with UNICEF Ireland and we are very excited to work with him in his brand new role as a Goodwill Ambassador” said Melanie Verwoerd, Executive Director of UNICEF Ireland. “I know he will become a powerful global force to help draw attention to, and improve the lives of, the world’s most disadvantaged children.”
Speaking about why supporting UNICEF is so important to him, Mr. Neeson said, “One of the reasons I’m proud to be associated with UNICEF is because UNICEF is working to reduce the number of children who die every day from preventable causes. It is shocking to me that in this day and age, 22,000 children are still dying every day for want of the most basic things like clean water to drink, a safe place to live or access to medicines when they are sick. I am determined to do whatever I can to help UNICEF.”
As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Neeson will continue to raise awareness about the issues that affect the lives of children and their right to have access to basic health care, primary education, protection and a safe environment.
The actor notes that his role in Taken, a film that looks at the issue of kidnapping and exploitation, served as a fresh reminder of the urgency in addressing the problem of trafficking and exploitation and standing up for the rights of children – on a global level.
Liam Neeson was born on 7 June 1952 in Northern Ireland. He has starred in a number of notable roles including Michael Collins, a film with the same title, Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey, and the voice of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia film series. Other films include: Excalibur, The Dead Pool, Darkman, Rob Roy, Nell, Gangs of New York, Love Actually, Kingdom of Heaven, Batman Begins, Chloe, Clash of the Titans, and The A-Team.
Mr. Neeson has also appeared on stage, making his Broadway debut in 1993 in Anna Christie, in which he co-starred with his late wife, Natasha Richardson. For his role in the play, he was nominated for a Tony. He has also been nominated for an Oscar as a Best Actor for his role in Schindler’s List, in addition to Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations.
In 1999, Liam Neeson was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. In 2008, the American Ireland Fund honoured Neeson with their Performing Arts Award, and in 2010, he received the Variety Award for Outstanding Achievements at the British Independent Film awards.
Mr. Neeson lives in New York with his two sons.