After two decades of being members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Guyana and Suriname will receive official visits from OIC Secretary General, Dr. Ekmeleddin Ishanoglu, from February 19 to 23, according to OIC and Surinamese officials at the United Nations in New York and officials in Paramaribo.

According to the OIC Mission to the UN, Dr. Ishanoglu will seek stronger economic cooperation between the OIC and Guyana and Suriname.

A statement release from the OIC on the upcoming visit, reads, "Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu pays special importance to bringing Guyana and Suriname into the fold of cooperation under the OIC projects, particularly in the field of economic development. Therefore, he has been encouraging the two countries to sign and ratify the new OIC Charter and various agreements, particularly on promoting trade relations, and he is looking forward to his visit to both countries. “

Dr. Ishanoglu was been credited for raising the profile of the OIC. “During the tenure of the current Secretary General, the OIC has gone through a process of substantial transformation towards action oriented cooperation among the member states, and the organization adopted a new charter underlying its new vision based on the promotion of moderation, modernization, development, human rights and good governance, " according to the statement.

There have been many misconceptions about the OIC. Maurits S. Hassankhan, a former Member of Parliament and former Cabinet Minister from Suriname said, “I do hope that the government will strengthen ties with the OIC, because I believe Suriname has a lot of opportunities within the OIC. Unfortunately, these opportunities have not been utilized, because of suspicion among many politicians and non-Muslims.”

Much of this planned historic visit was the initiative of Suriname’s President Desire Bouterse and his Presidential Advisor, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Suriname, Liakat Ali Errol Alibux, which was initiated two years ago at an OIC meeting in Kazakhstan. Bouterse invited the secretary general in an effort to forge stronger ties with the 57-member Organisation of mostly African and Asian countries.

Bouterse’s foreign policy emphasizes stronger South-to-South cooperation through bi-lateral and multi-lateral groups like the OIC, UNASUR and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Some of the world richest nations and future top oil and gas producers’ are members of the OIC- Azerbaijan, Brunei, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Iran, Nigeria, and Iraq.

Some countries like Guyana and Suriname, with non-Muslim majority populations, such as Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Togo, and Uganda are OIC members. Russia and Thailand are Observer members. The United States has appointed an envoy to the OIC and Brazil, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Nepal and the Republic of Congo are seeking Observer membership, while the Republic of Central Africa and Mauritius are seeking full membership.