There is no commonly accepted or legal definition of the term 'civil society organisation'. According to European Commission’s standards for consultation, it can nevertheless be used as shorthand to refer to a range of organisations which include:
- the labour-market players (i.e. trade unions and employers federations – the “social partners”);
- organisations representing social and economic players, which are not social partners in the strict sense of the term (for instance, consumer organisations);
- NGOs (non-governmental organisations), which bring people together in a common cause, such as environmental organisations, human rights organisations, charitable organisations, educational and training organisations, etc.;
- Community-based organisations, i.e. organisations set up within society at grassroots level which pursue member-oriented objectives, e.g. youth organisations, family associations and all organisations through which citizens participate in local and municipal life; and
- religious communities.