The Baha'i International Community again appreciates the opportunity to participate as an observer in this 26th South Pacific Conference. For us it is an important opportunity to co-ordinate our activities in social and economic development with those of the South Pacific Commission, the governments of the region, and the other organizations represented here. The efforts of official development and technical assistance programmes and of non-governmental organizations such as the Baha'i International Community are often complementary and mutually reinforcing. It is in our interest and especially in the interests of the people of the South Pacific that we learn to work closely together and to reinforce each other.
The theme of renewable energy features prominently in this Conference. As with many other aspects of technology, it is linked to the values by which we live. Energy dependence is almost universal in the Pacific today, yet human dignity and self-respect require independent responsibility and self-sufficiency. Traditional island communities were economically independent. However the last hundred years have seen a slide towards Western materialistic life-styles. These require high energy inputs from fossil fuels which must be imported along with the technologies for their use. Fragile island economies are severely stressed by the cost of imports, price fluctuations, vulnerability to overseas crises, problems of small scale, and maintenance difficulties associated with these technologies. New solutions are needed that are better adapted to island conditions.
The Baha'i Writings refer to the need to exploit all the available sources of energy on the surface of the planet. Since fossil fuels appear to be extremely limited in the Pacific, only the development of those renewable energy sources which are available will permit island countries to reduce their dependence on imported fuels. Renewable energy sources are also frequently better adapted to the scattered decentralized nature of island communities, and some energy systems at least may be more easily maintained with the level of technical skill available on most islands. There are many renewable energy sources and technologies available, such as solar energy, hydro power, and biogas, and their appropriateness will vary from island to island. Some are ready for use, and others still require experimentation and development. Baha'i communities in the Pacific are interested in becoming involved in the development of appropriate renewable energy, and have already taken some initiatives.
In our view, it is important that local communities be consulted on the renewable energy technologies suited to their needs. Widespread consultation with all those affected can help to avoid errors and ensure community support which is often essential for success. Self-reliance should be developed as far as possible through local participation in the installation and maintenance of renewable energy systems.
It will take time and effort to replace the present heavy dependence on imported fuels in the region by largely local and renewable energy sources. However this goal is worth pursuing, as it will reinforce rather than degrade those important island values of self-respect and human dignity.