But women's rights activists said governments didn't go far enough with the 150-page platform, adopted in Beijing in 1995.
Despite fears that delegates would chip away at the Beijing platform, the weeklong U.N. Women's Conference ended Saturday with no backtracking. The new document includes tougher measures to combat domestic violence and sex trafficking, and to tackle the impact of HIV/AIDS and globalization on women.
But despite an all-night session, virtually no progress was made on the most contentious issues--including access to safe abortion, sexual rights, sexual orientation, and equal rights of inheritance.
That disappointed grass-roots groups, which had been lobbying for more specific goals and stronger action, especially on issues regarding sexuality and reproductive health.
``We regret that there was not enough political will on the part of some governments and the U.N. system to agree on a stronger document with more concrete benchmarks, numerical goals, time-bound targets, indicators, and resources aimed at implementing the Beijing platform,'' said a statement by the Center for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University and the Women's Environment and Development Organization.
But U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Angela King, a special adviser on the advancement of women, said she was encouraged by the progress made.
``It was absolutely worth it,'' she said, after the delegates reached agreement after 5 a.m. ``All those millions of women who are looking at us are totally vindicated, and they have something to grasp to assist them for their battles for equality.
``We have a very strong document which not only reaffirms Beijing and other relevant conferences on human rights and social development, but also moves forward,'' she said.
The conference brought together about 2,300 international delegates and 2,000 representatives of grass-roots organizations. Aside from closed-door negotiations on the final document, dozens of panel discussions were held on subjects ranging from women crossing the digital divide to rituals of widowhood.
The first U.N. women's conference, in Mexico City in 1975, launched a movement toward women's equality that was still gaining momentum, King said, adding there would be another progress review in 2005.
Delegates met Saturday afternoon for a final committee meeting, and then moved to the General Assembly for approval of the document by consensus.
The battle lines at the current conference--known as Beijing Plus Five-- mirrored those at Beijing: the Vatican and a handful of Islamic and Catholic countries--including Libya, Algeria, Iran, Sudan and Nicaragua--against the West and hundreds of women's rights activists.
Unlike in Beijing, where the Vatican was very vocal, neither the Holy See nor the handful of Catholic and Islamic countries blocking consensus on sexual and reproductive issues held news conferences in New York this week.
The only conservatives to speak out were from a coalition of anti-abortion and religious groups, who blamed rich Western nations for pushing ``radical language'' on abortion, sexual rights and homosexual rights.
``People were concerned with a lot of other issues--violence against women, trafficking, HIV/AIDS, the impact of globalization, women's human rights and how much power they hold or share in the economy and politics,'' he said, and this is reflected in the final document.
Attempts to include stronger language on access to abortions failed, though, and references to sexual rights and sexual orientation were dropped.
The platform does say women have the right to ``decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality...free of coercion, discrimination and violence.''
Women's rights advocates said this constituted sexual rights, but conservative activists feared the term sexual rights could be interpreted as condoning homosexuality and other practices they regarded as deviant.
A dispute between the United States and Cuba over Havana's insistence on referring to the negative effect of U.S. sanctions was also resolved early Saturday.
King said both countries agreed to compromise language noting that ``in some countries, advancement of women is adversely affected by unilateral measures not in accordance with international law...that create obstacles to trade relations among states.''
Delegates noted strong planks calling for prosecution of all forms of domestic violence, including marital rape. For the first time in an international consensus document, forced marriage and so-called honor killings were addressed, with governments being urged to eradicate these human rights violations.
The document also calls for implementation and increased international cooperation to eliminate ``commercial sexual exploitation,'' as well as economic exploitation, including sex trafficking.
King said the document urged programs to educate men about safe and responsible sex, and pushed governments to eliminate the gender gap in primary and secondary schooling by 2005.