Difference between Civil Society and NGO: A Critical Analysis

Civil Society and NGO

NGOs play a crucial role in Society and aim to improve the populace’s lives. They have become an essential component of the nation’s growth that welcomes the poor and helps them flourish. The bulk of NGOs work to promote independent development.

The Civil Society, on the other hand, is a collection of volunteers who represent the interests of the electorate. NGOs and civil society organizations have grown to be an important part of the community that supports public safety and awareness.

The article will discuss the difference between civil Society and NGOs. Civil Society and NGOs have the power to influence individual behaviour. Such institutions, which are covered by the WHO-World Health Organisation, are actively involved with the promotion of agendas like the fighting against cancer, Polio, discrimination, refugee children and women’s rights.

What Is Civil Society?

According to the World Health Organisation, Civil Society is different from a commercial profit-making business. Civil societies typically include- charities, development NGOs1, community groups, women’s organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, social movements, coalitions, and advocacy groups.

The presence of Civil Society Ensures

  1. The voice of civil Society is essential in the Society.
  2. It helps the representation of groups that are marginalized and groups/individuals who are not heard.
  3. It helps in the participation of communities and the provision of services.
  4. The WHO set up the CSDH- Commission on Social Determinants of Health to look into the factors carried out for civil societies.
  5. Continuous development of the Society is required.

What Is An NGO?

A Non-Governmental Organization is a voluntary group with a social mission that functions independently from the government- the organization with a motive to improve Society. The definition of an NGO is universal. There are multiple terms used for NGOs, such as non-profit organization (NPO), Civil Society Organisation- CSO, Social Benefit Organisation, Citizen Sector Organisation, Social Benefit organisation, Advocacy Organisation or Voluntary Organisation. However, there is a difference between a civil society and an NGO.

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Presence of NGO ensures-

  1. Improve resilience in the Society.
  2. Ensures that the voices of individuals are addressed.
  3. Raises the concerns of the Society.

Difference between NGOs and Civil Society

It is essential to know the difference between civil Society and NGOs in the current decade, where there is the globalization of policies and liberalization of government practices to meet the ends of world politics. It appears that civil Society and NGOs are interchangeable terms, but their roles are different.

Difference between NGO and Civil Society
  1. Stepping Stone Are Different – A robust civil society is the foundation of modern political parties. NGOs are the life force for the civil Society. It implies that a society where NGO Registration acts as support for governance.
  2. Civil Society and NGO are not interchangeable terms – It implies that since the words are not synonyms to each other. Civil Society refers to that segment of the Society that interacts with the state and influences the state, yet it is distinct from the state.
  3. Increasing Civil Society – To be a civil state, the government has to follow the parameters-to be called a Civil Society. What is considered the sign of good governance is the least governance. Good governance in a country permits free trade, decentralized institutions for local authorities such as Panchayats, Municipal Corporations, or other local bodies to govern the management.
  4. NGO rise in Civil Society – It is essential to realize that growing NGO in any civil society highlights the state’s declining legitimacy. This means there is low functioning of the state, with corrupt administration. To understand the rise of NGOs, we first need to look at the political system-the rise of corrupt bureaucrats. All the roles as defined for the governance of the administration is a part of civil Society, and non-performance of such functions leads to the rise of NGOs.
  5. Role of NGO and Civil Society – Non-Governmental Organizations are more accountable, responsive, and take actions for public rights. They bring about social change. They raise the concern for the citizens.
  6. Point of difference: – In a civil society – citizens have fundamental rights, the Directive Principles of State Policy-DPSP and fundamental duties-FD as enshrined in the Constitution of India as Articles 12-35, Article 36-51 and Article 51A. The role of NGO comes when the state is seen as consisting of entrenched interests and styles of functioning that make it unwilling and unable to work with its people.
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For example, – Fundamental right to stop exploitation against children-Article 23 and 24-this is what a civil society must have as a goal. Whereas NGOs like Red Cross Society or Centre for Child Rights, or United Nations Body like UNICEF are the remarkable examples of the working to achieve the goals or those enshrined in the Constitution of Civil Society.


It can be concluded that the difference between civil Society and NGOs can be understood with the new substantive laws of the government, such as-FCRA. The amendment aimed to bring about transparency in the functioning of a Non-Governmental Organization-NGO. It amended NGOs serving education and research. Such NGOs are foreign controlled NGOs. This brought capping of administrative expenses to 20% of NGO. No transfer of accounts to any other firm. The civil society requires presence of an NGO, and such amendments are increasing NGOs’ reach to unprivileged groups in the Society. Civil societies require NGOs to carry out the interests of the public. Hence, from the above, civil societies are different from NGOs.

Read our article:NGO Darpan Registration Process: A Complete Guide



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