UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The head of UN Women said Monday that world leaders attending an annual meeting on the status of women have a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to better the lives of women and girls by implementing U.N. goals approved by world leaders last year.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, speaking at the opening of the 60th Commission on the Status for Women, said the theme of this year's meeting is the link between women's empowerment and development. She urged members to implement the 17 broad goals and 169 specific targets endorsed last year, saying it is crucial to advancing equality for women and girls around the world.
The document's overarching aims are reducing poverty and inequality and preserving the environment by the 2030 deadline. The ambitious agenda is expected to cost between $3.5 trillion and $5 trillion every year.
The two-week session that began Monday focuses on achieving gender equality.
"Excellencies, in your hands is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to end poverty and transform gender relations irreversibly for the next generation, making the world a better place for all," she said.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said that for many women and girls still at risk change is not coming fast enough. The meeting, attended by hundreds of women from the 193 member countries, non-governmental agencies and civil society, is the first since the development goals were endorsed by member nations last fall.
Language in a working document being considered by delegates at the session acknowledges the link between the development goals and gender equality.
"Women play a vital role as agents of development and the achievement of full human potential and of sustainable development is not possible if one half of humanity continues to be denied its full human rights and opportunities," it says.
Meetings during the commission's session include work on funding and implementing laws and policies that promote gender equality.
U.N. officials agree there is much work that still needs to be done to ensure equality.
Dubravka Simonovic, the U.N. special investigator on violence against women, said that for the first time since the start of the refugee and migrant crisis in Europe, there are more women and girls on the move than men. She said more information is needed on the subject but it is clear that migrant women and girls face high risks of sexual violence from smugglers, criminal groups and individuals both while in transit and in camps and shelters.
"Gender-based violence is a common feature throughout their journeys and within their countries of destination," she said.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that there are still four countries where not a single woman is represented in parliament and eight countries that have no women Cabinet members.
"As long as one woman's human rights are violated, our struggle is not over," he said.
The Commission on the Status of Women was established by U.N. resolution in 1946.