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Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Oct. 20, 2010.

CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will come face to face with dozens of world leaders who scuttled Canada's chance for a seat on the UN Security Council seat when he turns his attention back to international affairs this week at the Francophonie summit.

More than half of the 53 full-member states represented at the meeting in Montreux, Switzerland will be from Africa and the Middle East.

It is widely believed that many African nations failed to support Canada earlier this month in New York because of its shift in international aid focus.

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Canada removed five French-African countries from its list of priority aid recipients in favour of nations in Latin American and the Caribbean. Countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso are among the poorest in the world and ambassadors from those nations appealed for more assistance at a parliamentary committee last spring.

One retired Canadian diplomat, who asked not to be named, says Francophonie nations used to support Canada at the UN as a block.

"When you belong to such an organization you also have to cultivate the friends within," said the diplomat, who had experience working with the Francophonie.

"If you meet with them only every second year for a summit, it's not sufficient. You have to deal with them on a regular basis, phone them, have meetings at the ministerial level, hopefully have at least some sort of small-sized [development]program. There are all kinds of ways of entertaining friends."

Canada remains the second-largest donor, besides France, to the Francophonie's various arms and activities, making the snub at the UN smart even more. In 2008-9, Canada spent $1.27 billion in international assistance directed towards Francophonie member and observer nations.

University of Ottawa Professor Pierre Beaudet of the School of International Development and Global Studies says Canada no longer casts a long shadow within the Francophonie as power shifts inside of Africa and assistance has been cut.

Even France, Prof. Beaudet says, has lost its influence amongst its former colonies as it struggles to find its footing on the world stage and get closer to the United States.

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He points to the rising importance of China and the United States in French Africa. "Francophonie as a network, as an institution, is in deep, deep decline."

The former Canadian diplomat disagrees, saying the Francophonie plays an important role in enhancing co-operation between countries - particularly developing ones that might not be invited to other international summits.

Josée Verner, minister in charge of the Francophonie, was not available for an interview on Canada's relationship with French-speaking countries.

Liberal Francophonie critic Raymonde Folco said she hopes the African leaders don't hold back when they get time with Harper.

"What I hope will happen in [Switzerland]is that they'll meet with Mr. Harper and say something has to change here, and put pressure on him to reconsider the kind of international aid and the relationship Canada has with these other countries," Mr. Folco said.

In the midst of these bilateral issues, French President Nicolas Sarkozy will sweep into the postcard-perfect lakeside town trailing a storm of controversy from his own besieged nation. Extra security is already being brought in to anticipate protesters following Mr. Sarkozy into Switzerland.

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Quebec Premier Jean Charest is also expected to bring some extra baggage with him to Montreux. Charest if facing protests in the province over a language bill that allows some French-speaking Quebeckers and immigrants to gain access to English schools if they had attended private schools in the past.

Before the summit gets going on Friday, Mr. Harper is scheduled to meet with Swiss President Doris Leuthard. The two are expected to discuss the subject of Canadians who have evaded taxes by holding private accounts in Swiss banks.

Following the Francophonie summit, the Prime Minister will travel to Ukraine for an official visit.

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