It’s a perma-question on every traveler’s mind: Where to visit next? But instead of chasing last-minute deals or flying wherever your miles can take you, why not allow your conscience to be your guide? And by conscience, we mean the nonprofit organization Ethical Traveler, which recently published its annual list of the top 10 most ethical developing countries in the world.
The Northern California-based group uses an impressive set of guidelines: Its all-volunteer staff researches and reviews (without contributions from governments, visitors bureaus, businesses, individuals, or others) the environmental, social welfare, and human rights policies of hundreds of nations. Based on its findings—plus a destination's overall appeal to travelers—Ethical Traveler then recognizes the 10 (unranked) top scorers.
Grenada: The LGBT Watchdog
Citizens of this Caribbean archipelago use nurseries to protect and regenerate their coral reefs, and they are considering constitutional reform to improve the rights of LGBT people.
Federated States of Micronesia: The Energy Expert
Micronesia aims to increase renewable energy by at least 30 percent by 2020, and the government recently passed legislation to protect a 78-acre wetland, part of a larger effort to preserve the country's 1,400-acre Yela Valley. They country is also extending Internet access across the Oceanian atoll east of Polynesia to improve education.
Mongolia: The Well-Rounded All Star
Mongolia generates electricity via solar power for about 20 percent of its population, including 70 percent of the herders who roam its vast Gobi Desert, mountains, and plateaus. The country has earmarked nearly 15 percent of its land as protected, and has an increasing awareness of coal, copper, and gold mining’s impact on the environment. Mongolians receive subsidies to care for terminally ill family members and recognize International Women’s day as a national holiday.
Panama: The Animal Protector
Panamanians recently passed an animal-welfare law that bans dogfighting, greyhound-racing, hare-coursing, and bullfighting, while regulating circus animal performances. Panama has also ratified six key international child labor conventions.
Tuvalu: The Creative Climatologist
This cluster of nine South Pacific coral atolls (including five uninhabited islets where travelers can snorkel, walk, and bird-watch) is one of 43 countries on The Climate Vulnerable Forum, which addresses innovative solutions to problems created by climate change. Tuvaluans have a literacy rate of 99 percent, and, like Micronesia, the country is extending Internet access across its islands’ 16 square miles.