Streamline your tax compliance with our expert-assisted GSTR 9 & 9C services @ ₹14,999/-

Tax efficiency, interest avoidance, and financial control with advance payment @ 4999/-

Difference Between Civil Society And NGOs – Roles

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play an important role in the development of the country as they are the operational arm of civil society. Furthermore, civil society contributes to the development of innovative solutions to poverty and inequality.

Difference Between Civil Society and NGO

Society is like a big, woven quilt made up of different groups and organisations, all playing a part in how things are run and how we progress as a community. When we talk about making our society better, two important things that come up are Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Although people sometimes use these terms interchangeably, it’s essential to understand what makes them unique in terms of their roles, functions, and goals.


Think of modern political parties as having their roots in civil society. Civil society isn’t just about families or states – it’s a group actively involved in economic, social, and cultural activities, crossing boundaries to make a positive impact. In this complex web, NGOs act like a powerhouse, giving crucial support to the structures that govern civil society. They act as catalysts, directing the energy and determination of individuals towards making society better.


Civil society isn’t just a family or state thing; it’s a group of people doing various activities together. NGOs, on the flip side, are non-profit organisations run by volunteers, working at different levels – local, regional, or even international. They exist to make society better, often tackling issues that the government might not cover.


Governments aim to be fair and just, following certain rules to be a civil state. Civil society has a big role in shaping and influencing how things are run. It acts like a watchdog, making sure the government does what it’s supposed to do. But when the government falls short or can’t meet the needs of its people, that’s when NGOs step in. The rise of NGOs can show that the government might be struggling. NGOs are known for being responsive, accountable, and committed to public rights, actively working to bring about positive changes in society.


In civil society, people have certain rights, duties, and guidelines, as mentioned in the Constitution of India. The main goal of civil society is to put these rights, duties, and guidelines into action. NGO registration come into play when the government faces challenges, making it hard to work well with its citizens due to various issues.

Both civil society and NGOs share a common goal of protecting human rights, helping those who are less privileged, and making society better. Civil society is crucial in dealing with social problems and finding proactive solutions to issues like poverty and discrimination. NGOs, acting like the organising arm of civil society, play a big role in turning these goals into real actions for positive changes in society. 


An NGO is a non-profit, voluntary organisation of people, organised at the local, regional or international level. They are groups that function independently of the government. Furthermore, they are defined as ‘non-state, non-profit-oriented entities that pursue public interest.

NGOs are primarily concerned with social justice, development, and human rights. Governments generally fund Non Governmental Organisation (NGOs) in whole or in part, and they retain their non-governmental status by barring government officials from membership in the group. 

They play an important role in a country’s social development and offer several opportunities for people in need. They have emerged as a viable institutional framework to function as a catalyst for betterment as most of them aim at building self-reliant and sustainable development. 

Civil Society 

According to the World Health Organisation, civil society is not the same as a profit-making enterprise. Charities, development organisation’s, community groups, women’s organisations, faith-based organisations, professional associations, trade unions, social movements, coalitions, and advocacy groups are all examples of civil societies

Link Between NGOs and Civil Society 

Progressive interpretation of the Constitution, its laws, and policies in India broaden the scope for development to include not only economic progress for citizens, but also the promotion of social justice, gender equity, inclusion, citizen awareness, empowerment, and improved quality of life. 

To realise this holistic vision of development, the state needs the positive and collaborative participation of civil society in its many developmental projects and programs. As the operational arm of civil society, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) play a significant role in the development process.

The term civil society organisation (CSO) or non-governmental organisation (NGO) refers to any non-profit, voluntary group of citizens at the local, national, or international levels.

Connection Between the Indian State and NGOs

In India, state policies have had a significant impact on the development and activity of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The government has sponsored and aided initiatives that provide financial assistance to NGOs in the form of grants or matching grants to support the implementation of social development projects.

 Several official panels have highlighted the need for involving non-profit groups in social projects.

Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, 1957

As discussed in the committee, today there is a growing emphasis on NGOs’ role in executing various community development programs, as well as on the notion that all work should eventually be taken up by people’s own local organisations.

Rural-Urban Relationship Committee, 1966

The committee believed that local volunteer groups can be of tremendous value in organising public support and people’s participation in municipal government initiatives. Through NGOs, it is possible to maintain frequent and intimate contact with the citizens of a country.

Significance of Civil Society

  • Civil society organisations, through social trust, shared strategy, and networking, facilitate collaboration between two or more individuals. Democracies inherently require such cooperative conduct. 
  • Since civil society organisations operate outside of the traditional spaces of the state and the market, they can negotiate, persuade, and force these institutions to become more sensitive to citizens’ demands and rights.
  • Civil societies are acknowledged as crucial stakeholders in achieving equitable, sustainable, and inclusive development goals in the present economic growth paradigm.
  • Through methods such as raising awareness, social mobilisation, service delivery, training, research, and advocacy, the voluntary sector has made a significant contribution to finding innovative solutions to poverty, deprivation, prejudice, and exclusion.
  • Furthermore, the voluntary sector has provided an honest, non-political link between the people and the government.

Different Types of Civil Society Organisations

  • Civil rights advocacy organisations: Promote human rights of specific social groups, such as women, migrants, people with disabilities, HIV victims, sex workers, Dalit members, tribal people, and alike.
  • Civil liberties advocacy organisations: Promote equal civil liberties and human rights for all instead of concentrating on a particular social class.
  • Community-based organisations, citizens groups, farmers’ cooperatives: Promote citizen engagement in public policy problems to enhance the quality of life in society.
  • International peace and human rights organisations: Foster peace and human rights on an international level.


There is a tiny distinction between civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since they operate in different ways. Their goal, however, is the same: to preserve human rights. Civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) both contribute to society’s safety and progress. They both advocate for individuals’ human rights, protection, and safety. 


What is the role of civil society and NGOs?

Civil society and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) function in distinct ways, despite a subtle difference between them. Nevertheless, they share a common objective: the preservation of human rights. Both civil society and NGOs play roles in ensuring the safety and advancement of society.

What are examples of civil society?

The components of civil society encompass entities such as labor unions, non-profit organisations, churches, and other service agencies. These institutions offer crucial services to society while typically requesting minimal reciprocation.

Can civil society and NGO present an alternative?

Civil society and NGOs have the potential to present an alternative model for delivering public services, often characterised by increased responsiveness and community focus. However, they face challenges such as financial limitations, possible inefficiencies, and reliance on donor priorities.

How is an NGO a registered society?

An NGO becomes a registered society by following the prescribed legal procedures in its respective jurisdiction. Typically, it involves submitting necessary documentation and fulfilling regulatory requirements set by government bodies, such as obtaining approval from the Charity Commissioner or Registrar of Societies, depending on the applicable laws.

Is an NGO a civil society organisation?

A civil society organisation (CSO) or non-governmental organisation (NGO) is a nonprofit, voluntary group of citizens organised at the local, national, or international level.

Who controls all the NGOs in India?

State and federal government agencies granted regulatory authority to non-profit organisations. According to Section 8 of the Companies Act, 2013, the state-level hierarchy for NGOs comprises the Charity Commissioner (for trusts), Registrar of Societies, and Registrar of Companies.

Subscribe to our newsletter blogs

Back to top button


Remove Adblocker Extension