OTTAWA -- Stephen Harper will join a team of Conservative ministers in New York this week, although the prime minister will not address the United Nations general assembly while he is in the city.

Harper will instead take part in a side event on maternal and child health and attend a talk on the economy hosted by the Canadian American Business Council.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will instead be Canada's voice at the UN General Assembly, which he will address Sept. 30.

Joining him in New York are International Co-operation Minister Christian Paradis; minister of state for foreign affairs Lynne Yelich; and Deepak Obhrai, Baird's parliamentary secretary.

Meanwhile, a group of former cabinet ministers, senior diplomats, academics and foreign-policy experts is urging the Harper government to re-think how it engages with the UN.

The group is scheduled to hold a news conference today in Ottawa to outline steps the Conservative government could take to mend what they say is a strained relationship with the world body.