New data from the Stockholm International Peace Institute (SIPRI) shows that in 2012-16 worldwide sales of arms were up by 8.4% compared with the previous five years.
The independent institute said sales of major weapons had grown continuously since 2004, driven by increasing demand from countries in the Middle East and Asia.
In the Middle East arms imports have nearly doubled, rising 86% when 2007-2011 was compared with 2012-2016.
The rise was particularly large in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with both states increasing their imports by more than 200%.
“Over the past five years, most states in the Middle East have turned primarily to the USA and Europe in their accelerated pursuit of advanced military capabilities,” said Pieter Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure Programme.
“Despite low oil prices, countries in the region continued to order more weapons in 2016, perceiving them as crucial tools for dealing with conflicts and regional tensions.”
Arms imports by countries in Asia and Oceania also rose in 2012-16, increasing by 7.7% compared with the previous five years and accounting for 43% of global imports.
India remains the world’s largest importer of major weapons, accounting for 13% of all imports, as it does not have a production at national level.
The five biggest exporters of arms are the United States, Russia, China, France and Germany, who together account for 74% of all arms exports.
Arms sales to Europe, the Americas and Africa all decreased in the last five years.