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Top 10 ethical travel destinations for 2016
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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.
"By spending travel dollars in forward-thinking countries, explorers can reward the good guys -- and encourage humane practices worldwide," says Ethical Traveler's report.
The 2016 winners, in alphabetical order, are:
1. Cape Verde
4. 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."
Ethical Traveler's information sources include Freedom House, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Reporters Without Borders, UNICEF, LGBT resources and the World Bank.
Five countries from the 2015 list were removed this year: Lithuania, Chile, Mauritius, Palau and Vanuatu.
"Like Latvia in 2014, Lithuania is no longer considered a 'developing country,' having earned the IMF status of 'mature economy' and making it ineligible for our list," says the report.
As for Vanuatu, terrible destruction from Cyclone Pam in March 2015 devastated the country's infrastructure and tourism industry.
"We fully support Vanuatu's citizens in their rebuilding efforts but do not believe their infrastructure can handle an influx of tourists at this time," says the report.
"Palau, another small Pacific island that has been a fixture on our list, was omitted this year. In order to reclaim their long-held spot they must show clear and verified progress in the fight to end human trafficking, for both domestic labor and sex purposes."
As for Chile's removal from the list, it "failed to amend its archaic law barring abortions under any circumstances, causing many women to terminate their pregnancies via the dangerous black-market and underscoring a disregard for women's reproductive rights.
"Because of this, they are not in line with our Human Rights requirements."
To read the full report, visit Ethicaltraveler.org.