NEW YORK, N.Y. - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is skipping the United Nations General Assembly again this year, but he's not avoiding New York City altogether.
Harper will meet with three world leaders when he flies to New York to pick up an international statesman award tonight at the storied Waldorf-Astoria hotel.
He'll be bestowed with the honour at a dinner held by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, an inter-faith peace organization.
The event will take place just a few blocks from where hundreds of world leaders have gathered to discuss urgent global issues, including the situation in Syria, the growing tensions between Israel and Iran and the eruption of anti-American violence in the Middle East.
Harper's office says he's being recognized by the foundation as "a champion of democracy, freedom, and human rights."
Other past winners include one-time prime minister Jean Chretien, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and former British prime minister Gordon Brown.
But it's not all pleasure and no business for Harper. The prime minister will sit down separately with the president of Haiti and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority later today. On Friday morning, he'll meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Harper is facing a barrage of criticism back home for his decision to opt out of speaking to the UN again this year.
But he's insisted it's not standard procedure for the Canadian prime minister to address the General Assembly every year. The UN has met seven times since he was elected; Harper's spoken twice, in 2006 and in 2010.
In his place, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will once again address the UN on Monday. On Parliament Hill on Wednesday, Baird conceded the government has differences of opinion with the UN on some issues but denied any antipathy towards the organization.
"We're the seventh ... biggest contributor to the United Nations. When you look at something like the World Food Program, we're the second largest contributor," he said.