How can we understand the processes and outcomes that arise from frictional encounters in peacebuilding? This special issue contributes to ongoing debates on the precariousness of peacebuilding, by introducing the term friction as a way to capture and analyse the conflictual dimensions of global–local encounters. We envisage six responses – compliance, adoption, adaptation, co-option, resistance and rejection – which arise as a result of meetings between actors, ideas and practice in global – local relationships. These responses create new realities as they alter power relations, transform agency and mediate practices related to peacebuilding. Thus, the conceptual framework and insights drawn from the articles in the special issue contribute to a discussion about transforming the boundaries between the international and local, and cast new light on agency in peacebuilding processes while challenging aspects of the hybridisation of peace.