Photo: AlainLM

EVERY YEAR, THE NON-PROFIT Ethical Traveler puts together a list of the most ethical places on the planet for travelers to visit. The list is designed to only look at developing nations, and thus, places where your travel dollars are likely to make the most positive impact. The writers of the report said, in a blog post announcing the winners:

“During the past decade we have watched travel grow into the world’s largest industry, with a trillion-dollar annual footprint. This means that travelers possess more than curiosity; we have enormous power. Where we choose to put our footprints has economic and political reverberations that reach far beyond our personal experience.”

The winners, then, are the ten developing countries which have the best records in four major categories: human rights, social welfare, environmental protection, and animal welfare. They also take into account how much the country has changed over time, in the hope that by promoting countries that have made positive steps, they can encourage the country to keep moving forward.

The winners are, in alphabetical order:

Cabo Verde

Cabo Verde is trying to reach a goal of getting 50% of their energy from renewable resources by 2015, and is doing a lot to protect the endangered animals along their shores. They got a perfect score on civil and political rights, and are also one of the strongest African nations when it comes to gender equality.

Dominica

Dominica is not only taking steps towards getting all of their energy from renewable sources, but is also planning on providing renewable energy to other Caribbean nations. They have the best access to healthcare of any Caribbean nation, excellent political and civil rights, and consistently fight against the whaling industry.

Grenada

Grenada has been a key country in the fight against climate change, and has been doing a lot to protect its local coral reefs. It has made steps towards providing equal rights for the LGBT community, and has the second highest possible score in terms of civil and political rights.

Micronesia

Micronesia, like most of the island nations on this list, is doing a lot to fight climate change: they are trying to have 30% renewable energy by 2020, and are establishing a lot of protected areas on their islands. They’re expanding internet access so as to improve education rates, and have the best possible score in civil and political rights, according to Freedom House.

Mongolia

Mongolia, along with Panama, had the lowest number of unemployed on the list, and also is the best at providing end-of-life care for its citizens. They’ve set aside nearly 15% of their land for parks and protected areas, and they’re on their way towards abolishing the death penalty. They’ve also got the second highest possible score on civil and political rights — an impressive feat given their very powerful (and not-so-great in this respect) neighbors to the north and south.

Panama

Panama was second place in terms of environmental protection. They’ve gone a long way towards bringing back their rainforests and in encouraging sustainability. They’ve ratified the conventions on ending child labor, and have banned dogfighting and greyhound racing. They are also seventh place in terms of well-being, life expectancy, and ecological footprint — that’s seventh place not on this list, but in the entire world.

Samoa

Samoa plans on relying 100% on renewable energy sources by next year. They have also taken steps towards ending domestic violence, and have begun monitoring the human rights of women, children, and people with disabilities so they can continue to make improvements.

Tonga

Tonga was the winner in terms of environmental protection. A lot of island countries are the most at risk when it comes to the negative effects of climate change, and as a result, are doing the most to fight climate change. Tonga also has pretty solid political and civil rights, though it almost got bumped from the top 10 because of its treatment of women.

Tuvalu

Tuvalu is one of the most at-risk islands when it comes to climate change, and they aren’t sitting still about it — they’re part of the Vulnerable 20 group, which seeks to put pressure on the rest of the world to take steps on preventing the worst effects of climate change. They also criminalized all forms of domestic violence in 2015 and expanded their internet access.

Uruguay

Uruguay ranks highest in terms of social welfare. They have a long life span, a solid education system, and a good standard of living by most world standards. They are also the top performer in green energy, with a mind-boggling 90% of their energy coming from renewable sources. Uruguay also extended what many consider to be basic human rights to animals: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from pain, and freedom from fear and distress.

To read more about how the winners were chosen (and also which countries were knocked off of the list from 2015), check out the full post on Ethical Traveler’s website.

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