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Help has arrived for travelers who’ve resolved to avoid spending their tourism cash in countries with poor human rights and environmental records.
Non-profit group Ethical Traveler — a project of the Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute — has just released its annual list of the 10 most forward-thinking countries in the developing world. According to the California-based group, each country is reviewed for its performance in the areas of human rights, social welfare, animal welfare and environmental protection.
At the same time, it also needs to have plenty of appeal as a travel destination. Five first-timers have made this year’s list — Grenada, Micronesia, Mongolia, Panama and Tuvalu.
In the case of Panama, it has intensified its reforestation efforts, encouraging farmers to create sustainable tropical ecosystems. Several large-scale reforestation programs are being carried out or planned.
Panama and Mongolia had the lowest unemployment rates of the countries on the list, both reporting less than 5% of the workforce unemployed, while Panama also had the highest life expectancy at birth. Panamanians are living just about as long as Americans and Europeans, with an average life expectancy of 79 years. Ranking #7 in the world, they also came in high on the Happy Planet Index, a composite of “perceived well-being, life expectancy and ecological footprint.”
The 2016 winners, in alphabetical order, are:
- Cape Verde
- Micronesia (Federated States)
“There are seven island nations on the 2016 list, marking a continuing trend in the winners’ circle,” says the report.
“Climate change affects islands dramatically, so island nations tend to put extra effort toward effective environmental policies.”
Mongolia’s inclusion is also significant, as it’s the first developing mainland Asian country to ever appear on the list.
“While we acknowledge that no country is perfect, we honor those that strive to build a better, more sustainable society,” says Ethical Traveler co-founder and travel author Jeff Greenwald.
“Their neighbors can learn and benefit from their example — and so can we.”