The resolution on Friday capped a contentious two-week meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women, in New York City, and was passed despite objections of its chief sponsor, the United States.
The meeting ended with the US at odds with much of the rest of the world on issues of reproductive health and abortion.
The US had originally intended that the document on economic advancement focus on entrepreneurship, but South Africa proposed an amendment saying that “the neglect of women’s reproductive rights severely limits their opportunities in public and private life”.
A Cuban amendment on the downside of globalisation was also added. Unhappy with those changes, the US withdrew its backing. Nevertheless, the vote proceeded and the document was adopted by consensus.
“There are some good things in there so I think we have to take heart that we did get some of our entrepreneurship language … but it really is kind of the kitchen sink right now,” US Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey said.
“It’s the enabling environment that we started with and so much additional that it really lost any focus.”
Flurry of resolutions
There was also a minor embarrassment for the US – Sauerbrey tried to withdraw the document from consideration entirely because of the changes, but did not realise the rules prohibited her from doing so because amendments had been made.
The two-week gathering reaffirms
Nine other resolutions were passed without such fireworks, including documents calling for more action to eliminate sex trafficking and help women reverse the Aids pandemic.
The two-week gathering was to reaffirm the platform for action adopted at the 1995 UN women’s conference in Beijing to achieve equality for women.
While only 45 nations voted on the resolutions, 165 countries sent 1800 delegates including many ministers.
About 2600 representatives of human rights, women’s and other advocacy groups also attended.
Debate over abortion
The debate on Friday was similar to one that had raged the first week when the US had tried to amend a document reaffirming the Beijing platform to say it did not create any new human rights, including a global right to abortion.
The US stated that it opposes a
In the face of stiff opposition, Sauerbrey had withdrawn that amendment after delegations assured Washington the Beijing platform did not address global rights to abortion.
Kyung-wha Kang, head of the Commission on the Status of Women which organised the meeting, highlighted the “powerful” declaration adopted at the end of the first week.
She called it “an unqualified and unconditional reaffirmation” of the 150-page Beijing platform and an accompanying declaration.
The declaration, which urges governments to ensure the “full and accelerated implementation” of the two documents, was eventually adopted by consensus.
An Aids resolution passed on Friday emphasises that “the advancement of women and girls is key to reversing the pandemic” and urged governments “to take all necessary measures to empower women and strengthen their economic independence … to enable them to protect themselves from HIV infection”.
“We must be vigilant about any future attempts to roll back women’s rights at home and abroad”
June Zeitlin, executive director Women’s Environment and Development Organisation
A text on trafficking demands governments take measures to eliminate the demand for trafficked women and girls “for all forms of exploitation”.
It also asks nations to raise awareness of the consequences of sex trafficking, including its links to commercial sexual exploitation. That was a victory for the United States, which had wanted to make the link to prostitution in the text.
Several women’s advocacy groups praised the outcome of the two-week conference and the delegates’ united stance against the efforts of President George Bush’s administration, which they said were “intended to play to domestic political audiences”.
“What we proved here is that the United States can’t bully the world when it comes to women’s human rights,” said June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organisation.
“We must be vigilant about any future attempts to roll back women’s rights at home and abroad.”