|Transitions Abroad Magazine November/December 2005 Vol. XXIX, NO.3|
Issue Focus: Responsible Travel. Ecotourism. Volunteer Work Abroad. Jobs Abroad. Solo Woman, Family and Cultural Travel.
In Every issue
Abroad at Home
Independent Traveler Tips
The Senior Traveler
Back Door Travel
From The Editor
Photographer Alissa Everett was traveling in Syria when she met the Sudanese woman whose face graces this issue’s cover. The portrait strikes us not only for its beauty, but also because it serves as a reminder that though Sudan is much out of our view these days, it is still in desperate need of attention. The Darfur conflict, since its eruption in 2003, has been described widely as ethnic cleansing, and more recently as genocide. If making Darfur a priority simply because it is the right thing to do is not enough, the U.S. for one would do well to remember its concern that terror groups may operate there— Afghanistan is a lesson that poverty and abandonment help foster hatred.
This has been called a “make-or-break” year for Sudan, with the January 2005 historic peace agreement between the government and rebels from southern Sudan, which is why Dr. DeLuca’s article on how to volunteer there is so compelling. Peace in southern Sudan is not only important for its own end; it is also seen as a potential step toward ending the Darfur conflict.
Many countries including the U.S. pledged to make donations to Sudan, and it is critical that they follow through. In places like Cambodia, for example, where pledged donations for war rehabilitation have been abandoned, we see the tragic results of inadequate education, healthcare, and other social programs, as well as government corruption. In her article, “Seeing Siem Reap," Sara Schonhardt talks about ways to help Cambodia’s street children and young victims of land mines.
As so often is the case, it is up to us individuals to make the difference our governments do not. Many Transitions Abroad readers viewed themselves as “ambassadors of goodwill” following the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Now niches within the travel industry are springing up to bolster socially responsible and sustainable travel in order to help fight poverty and preserve the Earth’s cultures and environments.
“Tourism needs greater recognition by governments and development institutions for its capacity to generate economic, environmental, and social benefits,” said WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli in September. “It is also a sector that promotes inter-cultural understanding and peace among nations.”
Those spearheading this positive change are setting guidelines and principles to ensure high standards and to more rapidly compensate for the damage done in the many years of uncontrolled mass tourism. As we read the articles in this issue’s Responsible Traveler section, a pattern becomes clear: where communities are healthy and cultures intact, the environment is better protected. So that travelers have the information they need to make a positive contribution, Deborah McLaren provides the Best Responsible Travel Resources, which include such categories as pro-poor tourism and fair trade. Ron Mader more specifically focuses on the environment, with the Best Ecotourism Resources.
New organizations to facilitate responsible travel are emerging worldwide. From local operators to global companies, the options for how you travel are many, and your choices do make a difference. You can visit U.K.-based ResponsibleTravel.com to see its annual selection of travel industry providers that are making a significant commitment to responsible tourism.
We also ask you to consider how you can make a difference for some of those most severely impacted by the world’s recent natural disasters: victims of Hurricane Katrina and South Asia’s devastating earthquake; Guatemala’s Maya Indians whose villages were buried by mudslides; and south and west Africans experiencing severe crop failure, especially in Malawi and Niger.
Reuters Foundation AlertNet, www.alertnet.org, is a useful site for keeping abreast of the world’s emergencies and for learning more about how you can help reputable aid organizations.