Israel has been granted membership to the Development Center of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), marking another step on the country's path to full membership to the OECD. "Israel's membership to the Development Center represents another step in the country's process of membership to the OECD," said Oded Barok, Director of International Relations at the Finance Ministry. "Joining the center strengthens Israel's status as a country which contributes and takes part in international efforts together with developed countries to improve the standard of life in developed countries." Though it should be stressed that membership in the center does not suggest or imply membership in the organization itself, an invitation to join the center is nonetheless an indication of the importance the OECD attaches to those countries. Israel is joining the OECD's Development Center together with Vietnam and the Arab Republic of Egypt, increasing the number of center members to 32 - of which nine are non-OECD members. Created in 1962 by the OECD in Paris, the Development Center is an interface between OECD member countries and non-OECD member countries. It links OECD members with developing and emerging economies and brings together development partners to foster open debate and creative economic cooperation and policy solutions. Deputy director of the Foreign Ministry and head the Center for International Cooperation (MASHAV) Haim Divon remarked that Israel joining the OECD's Development Center coincided with Mashav's 50th anniversary. Under the framework of a two-year work program for 2009 and 2010, the Development Center was planning to focus on Africa and the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. The Development Center added that the new members were well-placed to participate in the program's discussions and analyses, and would be invited to contribute ideas in the course of the two-year program. In May last year, Israel was invited to to open negotiations to join the OECD. Still, Israel's fast-track membership to the OECD cannot be taken for granted, while the organization is still in the process of applying a series of tests to Israel's economic policies to ascertain what its government needs to do to ensure membership.