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The concept of civil society evolved a long
time ago. According to Cerothers (1999), the
concept goes back many centuries in Western thinking with its roots in Ancient
Greece. The modern-day notion of civil society began around the 18th
Century, prompted by political theorists from Thomas Paine to George Hegel, who
advanced the idea of civil society as a sphere parallel to but then independent
from the state. Moreso, the 90s brought about rekindled interest in civil
society, due to the trend advancing for democracy which unlocked space for
civil society and the necessity to cover rising gaps in social services which
had originated from structural adjustment and other reforms in developing
countries (Cerothers, 1999).


According to World Bank (2012), civil society
incorporates a broad spectrum of non-governmental not-for-profit organizations which
have a presence in public domain, voicing the values and interests of their affiliates
or others based on ethical, political, cultural,  religious, scientific or philanthropy factors.
Similarly, Boadi (2006) identifies civil society as the realm between the
household or family and the state, populated by voluntary groups and
associations formed on the basis of shared interests, and are separate and/or
largely but not necessarily completely autonomous from the state. However, despite the
term civil society being a victim of definitional pluralism, most definitions
concur on some common characteristics of the notion. Ghaus-Pasha (2004)
identifies key features of successful civil societies as including, among
others, separation from the state and the market; formed by people who have
common needs, interests and values like tolerance, inclusion, cooperation and
equality; and, development-oriented through a fundamentally endogenous and
autonomous process which cannot easily be controlled from outside.

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For Ghaus-Pasha
civil society should not be equated to NGOs as NGOs are only but a part of
civil society although they play an important and sometimes leading role in
activating citizen participation in socio-economic development and politics and
in shaping or influencing policy. It is a wider concept, comprising all organizations
and associations existing separately from the market and state. Examples of
civil society organizations range from local and international non-governmental
organisations; labour unions, religious groups; conflict resolution
institutions; cultural and
educational associations; youths and women associations; and, political
interest groups; to special
interest groups; voluntary associations; pressure
groups; policy networks; professional
associations; and business associations.

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