By Belinda Goldsmith
World military spending rose 1 percent in 2015, and it is estimated 10 percent of this spending could cover the costs of ending poverty within 15 years.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) says military expenditure nudged up to almost US$1.7 trillion (NZ$2.5 trillion) last year, with the United States by far accounting for the greatest amount despite its spending dipping 2.4 percent to US$596 billion.
China was the second largest spender for the second year in a row with spending up 7.4 percent to US$215 billion, while Saudi Arabia passed Russia to take third place and Britain came fifth.
SIPRI said military expenditure amounted to 2.3 percent of global gross domestic product -- and 10 percent of this would be enough to fund the global goals agreed upon by United Nations' 193 member states in September to end poverty and hunger by 2030.
"This gives some sort of perspective that can allow people to see what is the opportunity cost involved with global military spending," Sam Perlo-Freeman, head of SIPRI's military expenditure project, told Reuters.
"This could stir up some debate although we are certainly not expecting a 10 percent cut in military spending at all," he said.
"That is all about the politics of these countries."
UN figures show an estimated 800 million people live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger, with fragile and conflict-torn states experiencing the highest poverty rates.
SIPRI's annual military spending report showed overall expenditure increased last year in Asia, Central and Eastern Europe and for Middle East countries with data available.
However spending fell in North America, Western Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa, a continuing trend attributed partly due to the global economic crisis, falling oil prices and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Countries that bumped up military spending in 2015 included Algeria, Azerbaijan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, many of which were involved in conflict or faced heightened regional tensions.
The SIPRI military expenditure project was established in 1967 to study developments in world military expenditure.