09/11/2012 01:15 EDT | Updated 11/11/2012 05:12 EST

Harper hailed as 2012 'world statesman' by New-York based organization

OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is being hailed as "World Statesman of the Year" by an American organization that previously feted Jean Chretien and British prime minister Gordon Brown.

The Prime Minister's Office says Harper will travel to New York on Sept. 27 to receive the award from the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

Harper, according to the organization, will be recognized as a "champion of democracy, freedom and human rights."

The foundation was founded in 1965 by Rabbi Arthur Schneier. Its board includes former U.S. president Bill Clinton and former U.S. secretaries of state Madeleine Albright, James Baker, retired general Colin Powell and George Schultz.

The event at New York's famous Waldorf Astoria hotel takes place the same week that the United Nations' 67th general assembly convenes for high-level debate, but Harper will not be making a speech at the world body.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will instead represent Canada at the UN general assembly.

The Appeal of Conscience Foundation describes itself as an "interfaith coalition of business and religious leaders (that) promotes peace, tolerance and ethnic conflict resolution."

According to its website, "The foundation believes that freedom, democracy and human rights are the fundamental values that give nations of the world their best hope for peace, security and shared prosperity."

Among the foundation's previous "world statesman of the year" recipients were Chretien in 2002, Australian prime minister John Howard in 2005, France's Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in 2011.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Czech Vaclav Havel, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher have also been recognized over the years by the foundation — although not all have showed up in New York to receive their awards.