Killer Facts: The scale of the global arms trade

Even though the Arms Trade Treaty has been in place for four years, global arms trade is still on the rise. As world leaders meet to discuss the treaty, we must remind them that there is still work to do. 

After more than 20 years of campaigning by Amnesty International and partner NGOs in the Control Arms Coalition, the UN General Assembly voted decisively to adopt the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) text in April 2013. The treaty entered into force on 24 December 2014.

The ATT is a global treaty that sets out, for the first time, prohibitions to stop the international transfer between states of weapons, munitions and related items when it is known they would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes. Every year, an assessment is conducted to analyze the ‘overriding’ risk that potential arms exports could contribute to serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

However, despite their commitment to regulating irresponsible arms trade, many key states parties continue to sell arms to governments that commit serious human rights abuses. Data collected by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shows that the the global arms trade industry is continuing to supply weapons into some of the most deadly armed conflicts. 

Global spending on arms

  • The world spent $1.69 trillion on the military in 2016, just over 2% of global GDP.
  • The top 100 arms companies have sold over 5 trillion dollars’ worth of arms since 2002.

Global exports and imports of major conventional weapons

  • In the last five years, transfers of major conventional weapons reached their highest volume since the end of the Cold War.
  • China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, a body charged with the maintenance of international peace and security – are collectively responsible for over 70% of the arms trade.
  • The US and Russia are responsible for over half of all weapons exports globally.

Transfers to the Middle East

  • Over a quarter of global exports of major conventional weapons go to countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.
  • The US, the UK and France are responsible for around 70% of all exports of major conventional weapons to the Middle East.
  • In the last five years the Gulf states have massively increased their imports of major conventional weapons – Saudi Arabia has imported 212 % more than over the previous five years), with the United Arab Emirates up 63%, Qatar up 245% and Kuwait up 175%.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen

  • In May 2017, the US announced $110 billion worth of potential arms sales to Saudi Arabia – consolidating past and present negotiations.
  • The potential sales include $4.6 billion worth of guided air-to-ground munitions – a total of 104,000 bombs of the type that have been used routinely in the Yemen war.
  • The UK has approved exports of licences worth over £3.7 billion to Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the most recent conflict in Yemen.

Small Arms and Light Weapons

  • Eight million new small arms and up to 15 billion rounds of ammunition are manufactured each year.
  • The small arms trade is worth an estimated US$8.5 billion per year.
  • Two billion dollars’ worth of small arms ammunition transfers were reported to UN Comtrade in 2013; one billion dollars’ worth of pistols and revolvers were reported for the same period.


  • 2,238,326 people have died in armed conflicts since the end of the Cold War – with over 100,000 in 2016 (Uppsala conflict data program).
  • The aggregate economic and financial cost of violence in 2016 was estimated to be $14.3 trillion, or 12.6% of the global economy.[4]

See the full list of States Parties and signatories