BarbadosThe UN High Commissioner for Human Rights praised Barbados this year for its excellence in literacy and education.
Cape VerdeEthical Traveler lauded Cape Verde’s attempt to reach 300 percent renewable energy and other decisive moves toward sustainable development. With West Africa’s highest standard of living, it said Cape Verde continues to be a model of political rights and civil liberties in Africa.
Costa RicaCosta Rica’s environmental protection may have something to do with the happiness of its people, who were ranked No. 1 in the world on the Happy Planet Index. The Central American nation also scored high on child mortality rates, and saw a dramatic decrease in crime.
GhanaA newcomer on the list, Ghana boasts an improving environmental performance and growing human development. Its peaceful transition of power this year, lead by Interim President John Dramani Mahama, was seen as a great sign of progress.
MauritiusMauritius earned its highest score to date in human development, placing far above the regional average and significantly above the world average. Ethical Traveler believes this is because of improvements in property rights, monetary freedom and management of government spending.
LatviaLatvia was considered the “most improved performer” in environmental protection this year as well as a global leader in improving gender equality.
LithuaniaLithuania scored high on social welfare and had top marks from Freedom House in political rights and civil liberties.
PalauEthical Traveler noted Palau’s strong emphasis on greening its economy and implementing sustainable development projects.
SamoaEthical Traveler noted Samoa’s work in consulting with local communities to designate national parks and improve coastal management. The UN Research Institute for Social Development called Samoa a role model in the Pacific region for welfare and social cohesion.
UruguayUruguay received the highest possible scores from Freedom House for political rights and civil liberties. Its extensive human rights laws, including the most liberal LGBT rights in South America, made it a model for the continent, Ethical Traveler said.
"Destinations Of Interest"Ethical Traveler put Burma, Cuba and Namibia on its list of “destinations of interest” this year due to improving human rights in the first two and progressive environmental laws in the latter.
‘Tis the season for looking forward and sifting though the map to pinpoint which nations will be hot in 2013. Everyone has their predictions, but in a sea of soothsayers, non-profit Ethical Traveler proposes a different set of metrics: What if we “voted with our wings” and used our travel to support developing countries that treat their land and people right?
A project of the Earth Island Institute, Ethical Traveler issues its annual report on the most ethical travel destinations on the planet to educate people about the social and environmental impact of their decisions, “showing how travel can be a potent form of diplomacy.”
“Travelers have no idea how much power they have,” said Jeff Greenwald, executive director of Ethical Traveler and one of the report’s authors. “Travel is one of the biggest industries in the world, and travelers can have an enormous impact.”
The annual list encourages those struck with wanderlust to reward nations in the developing world that have excellent records on environmental protection, human rights and social welfare.
Greenwald and the report’s other authors looked at both the past and present states of some 150 developing nations “from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe” to see how they’ve changed over time using information from sources like Freedom House, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Environmental Performance Index and the World Bank. Each country that made the final cut also offers opportunities for travelers to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful and mutually enriching way.
The 2013 list includes six carry-overs from 2012, though nations like the Bahamas, Chile, Serbia and Argentina fell off for declining in environmental protection. Greenwald said both Chile and Argentina also showed negative trends in civil liberties, including infringements on the right to freedom of the press and freedom of information. Argentina, he said, showed a lack of respect for the rights of indigenous peoples, while Chile fell 47 places in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom rating this year for violations committed by security forces during student protests.
On the flip side, Greenwald said, “Island nations seem to get it right.”
While Latin American countries fell off the list this year, island states and African nations rose to the top, though Ethical Traveler excluded several shortlisted countries specifically because of homophobic laws.
The non-profit released its 2013 list Monday night in San Francisco, and representatives from eight of the 10 nations were present to receive the honors.
“We talked a lot about what the nations did good, but also what needs to improve,” Greenwald said, adding that the representatives were very receptive.
Now that the list is out, he hopes it will encourage travelers to use their imagination.
“People go places as a matter of habit, but we only live so long and it’s a wonderful opportunity to think about someplace new. You may not know much about Mauritius, Cape Verde or Barbados, but if you get off the beaten path and visit, you can have the satisfaction of supporting a country that is on the right track.”
For a complete look at the World’s 10 Best Ethical Destinations 2013, scroll through the slideshow.