Women’s empowerment and gender equality was the focus of the 2010 substantive session, which began on 28 June and coincided with the creation by the General Assembly of a single UN body tasked with accelerating progress in this vital area.“The Council has made a strong contribution to making 2010 a watershed year for women,” Hamidon Ali, President of ECOSOC, said in his closing remarks. In a ministerial declaration adopted at the end of its high-level segment earlier this month, the Council stressed the need to invest more in women and girls, which is essential to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the set of eight human development and poverty eradication targets with a 2015 deadline.“A key message emanating from the high-level segment is that gender equality and the empowerment of women sit squarely at the heart of development and peace worldwide, and that the international community must remain fully committed to these efforts,” said Mr. Ali.Echoing his comments, Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stated that the ministerial declaration was successful in “placing gender equality and the empowerment of women at the centre of the development agenda.” He added that ECOSOC has “firmly shown its relevance” at a crucial point in the preparation for the high-level MDG Summit that will take place at UN Headquarters in New York in September, which is expected to result in concrete national action plans for realizing the Goals. “The Council has shown its authority in promoting implementation of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals,” he stated.Mr. Sha added that the national voluntary presentations – made by 13 countries during the current session – have provided a “unique information-sharing and stock-taking platform” that promotes both accountability and the fulfilment of commitments for achieving the MDGs. Among the other features of the just-concluded session was the Development Cooperation Forum, as well as discussions on maintaining humanitarian operations in insecure and high-risk environments, and special events on Haiti and on how to achieve the MDGs in countries emerging from conflict. 23 July 2010The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today wrapped up its annual gathering with senior officials hailing the contributions of the month-long session towards advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as in the areas of peace and development.