Although human rights NGOs (HURINGOs) have contributed to the institutionalisation of a human rights culture, the human rights discourse mainly focuses externally on the obligations of states and, more recently, of business. Little attention is paid to how HURINGOs manage their power and privileges within their internal governance, despite NGOs' growing influence, resources, scope and diversity. This thesis offers a theoretical interpretation of the experiences, challenges, dilemmas and lessons learnt by HURINGOs in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa to contribute to the evolving discourse of human rights theory and practice. It adopts a multi-disciplinary approach that articulates the human rights obligations of HURINGOs and their implications for governance, arguing that the improved governance of NGOs is critical to the strengthening of the human rights movement. While upholding the dominant legal liberalism school which underlines that the state is the main human rights duty bearer and legal systems are critical to the enforcement of rights, it utilises the sociology of law discourse that conceptualises human rights as a normative principle to contain abuse of power. Drawing from the rights-based approach which is aimed at holding all actors accountable for the human rights implications of their actions, it evaluates how HURINGOs have applied the human rights principles and standards of: (i) express linkage to and mainstreaming of rights; (ii) accountability and transparency; (iii) participation and inclusion; and (iv) non¬discrimination, equity and empowerment in their governance and operations, as they demand of others. It is the mam contention of this study that HURINGOs have the obligation to empower themselves internally before they can champion the empowerment of others. This entails being knowledgeable in the area of work; forging linkages with broader civil society and academia, building on the positive cultural values that resonate with human rights to stimulate mass support and balancing the different accountabilities to the law, boards, membership, self-regulatory mechanisms, public and donors. Further HURINGO have the obligation to safeguard the autonomy of their mission; have transparent and participatory processes to enhance collective strength, legitimacy and ownership of consensus decisions; as well as promote and demand equal and equitable relationships based on mutual respect, shared responsibility and achievements while simultaneously enabling the weaker party to act on their own. Although a higher responsibility is placed on HURINGOs to respect human rights values, all NGOs irrespective of how they define themselves have to mainstream human rights in their work. This is because all NGOs exist in the public trust and work to promote human dignity and societal wellbeing. They must lead by example. Applying the human rights principles to NGOs enhances their moral legitimacy to measure up to the challenges of being a watchdog of the governance process and custodians of the better promotion and protection of human rights. Significantly, it advances the credibility of human rights to offer protection from any abuse of power.