BLOG SURF: Civil society

About twenty years ago I was working for a well-known nongovernment organization (NGO), campaigning on many issues from access to affordable drugs for HIV/AIDS patients, to advocating for fair trade for small farmers.

When asked what I did I explained about my advocacy for social justice. “Oh so, you’re promoting communism?” was the response. It was a sobering message realizing that few people really understand the nature and role of civil society organizations (CSOs).

Civil society is a broad term covering a wide range of organizations from associations, clubs, religious groups, special interest groups, educational institutions and many others. NGOs are a subset of CSOs and sometimes the two acronyms are used interchangeably.

The organisations the public most often see in the media are those who are often portrayed as vociferous demonstrators. While governments and some people may disapprove of these ‘noisy’ groups.