New York, USA, 29 August 2011 - UNICEF today announced that world-number one ranked tennis player Novak Djokovic will serve as an Ambassador for UNICEF in Serbia. The partnership will allow Djokovic, a native of Serbia, to continue his push to defend children’s rights and provide access to early childhood education. The tennis ace is in New York this month competing at the US Open and vying to capture his third Grand Slam title of the year.
“I am very honored to partner with UNICEF to help increase awareness for the importance of early childhood education,” said Djokovic. “I look forward to working with UNICEF to help make a difference in the lives of young children throughout Serbia, particularly those who have fewer opportunities to learn and develop to their full potential.”
“Novak Djokovic is a natural fit for UNICEF,” said Rima Salah, Deputy Executive Director (a.i.). “He cares deeply about the welfare of Serbian children, bringing the same passion and enthusiasm for his career on the court to addressing issues affecting children.”
Djokovic’s work as a National Ambassador will kick off with a focus on early childhood education. The importance of investing in learning opportunities for young children is well known, with abundant evidence that laying solid foundations in the early years results in better life outcomes for the individual child and society as a whole. This is the case for all children, but even more striking for children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. In Serbia, less than half of all children under-five attend early education programs, dropping to less than one-in-ten for those from vulnerable groups. Expanding early education to include all children is increasingly recognized as a key priority in Serbia.
In accepting the appointment, Djokovic said, “Through my work with UNICEF, I want to help Serbian children realize their dreams. I want to help them understand that they have rights and that those rights should be protected. I want them to believe that anything is possible.”
Djokovic began playing tennis at age four and made his pro debut at 16. Since then, he has won three Grand Slam singles titles, the 2008 and 2011 Australian Open championships and the 2011 Wimbledon Championship, becoming the first player representing Serbia to win a Grand Slam singles title and the youngest player in the open era to have reached the semi-finals of all four Grand Slam events, separately and consecutively. Amongst other major titles, he also won the 2010 Davis Cup.
UNICEF Ambassadors are well-known and highly respected personalities who promote children’s rights and mobilize support for the work of UNICEF and its partners. In the 50 years since celebrities began working with UNICEF, they have helped sway government policies on behalf of children, publicized children's issues around the globe and raised funds for UNICEF-supported programs.