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Difference between Civil Society and NGO: A Critical Analysis

Sonal Pruthi

| Updated: Feb 05, 2021 | Category: NGO

Civil Society and NGO

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

What is Civil Society?

According to the World Health Organisation[1], a civil society is different from a commercial profit-making business. Civil societies typically include- charities, development NGO’s, community groups, women organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, social movements, coalitions, and advocacy groups.

Presence of Civil Society Ensures-

  1.  The voice of civil Society is essential in the Society.
  2. It helps representation of groups which are marginalized and groups/individuals who are not heard.
  3.  It helps in participation of communities and the provision of services.
  4. The WHO se 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 the Society. The definition of an NGO is universal. There are multiple terms used for the NGO such as non-profit organization (NPO), Civil Society Organisation- CSO, Social Benefit Organisation, Citizen Sector Organisation-CSO, Social Benefit Organisation-SBO, Advocacy Organisation or a Coluntary Organisation. However, there is a difference between a civil society and NGO.

Presence of NGO ensures-

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

Difference between NGO and Civil Society

It is essential to know the difference between the civil Society and NGO 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 NGO 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 NGO, 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, Directive Principles of State Policy-DPSP and fundamental duties-FD as enshrined in the Constitution of India as Article 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.

For Example – Fundamental right to stop exploitation against children-Article 23 and 24-this is what a civil society must have 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 the civil Society and NGO can be understood with the new substantive law 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 expense 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

Sonal Pruthi

She is B.Com (H), LL.B LLM, Cs (Module 2) And Certification In Cyber Law From ILI Qualified. She has Been A Legal Teacher In The Previous Organization. My Strength Is My Expertise Knowledge In Civil Laws, Corporate Law And Tax Laws. I Have Been Legal Teacher And Legal Trainer In The Past Organization. Her Knowledge About The Subjects Have Expanded Due To Teaching Number Students From Various Universities All Over India.

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