As many as 5,000 members of government delegations, including 80 cabinet ministers, and non-governmental organizations, NGOs, are expected to attend at least some of the two weeks of sessions appraising the progress made in gender equality since the 1995 conference.

Sponsors say significant progress has been made in the goal of gender equality, with many nations adopting new policies to eliminate discrimination, enroll increasing numbers of girls in primary school and recognize rape and sexual violence as war crimes. According to a new report from the World Bank, the lives of women and girls around the world have improved in the last 10 years due, in part, to action by the international community following the Beijing conference.

But the global human rights group Amnesty International says violence against women has continued unabated since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration a decade ago, with many nations not fulfilling their pledges.

Kyung-wha Kang, the chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, said the issue remains the biggest obstacle to the advancement of the world's women. "I would have to say that the prevalence of violence against women in many forms in almost all countries. In some countries it could be the problem of domestic violence. In some other countries it could be other manifestations of that. But I think almost wherever you go whether it is the developing countries, the developed countries, western countries, wherever, there is still violence again women," she said.

Ms. Kang said the goal of the Beijing Plus Ten meetings is to produce a powerful document reaffirming the goals of the 1995 Conference. But that goal is already stirring some controversy with reports that the United States is pushing for the inclusion of an anti-abortion plank. Ms. Kang says she is hopeful that negotiations can resolve any potential impasse. "As chair, I cannot comment on the position of any delegation. As chair, what I can do is to urge delegations to exercise as much flexibility and cooperate as much as possible so that in the end we will be able to adopt a language that all can agree to," she said.

Secretary General Kofi Annan will address the opening session of the conference on Monday.